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July 30 2016 5:53 PM

HBO Kind of Confirms There Are Just Two More Seasons to Win the Game of Thrones

Daenerys had better make haste sailing to the Seven Kingdoms.

At the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday, Casey Bloys, the relatively new programming chief of HBO, confirmed that there are but two more seasons to win the Game of Thrones (or, per Cersei, die trying).


From CNN:

"Believe me, as the new guy, if I could get them do to more, I would take 10 more seasons," Bloys said. "But we take their lead on what they think they can do [to make] the best version of the show."
Last month, "Game of Thrones" executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said they would like to end the series in 73 hours. That leaves roughly 13 more episodes of the show in two truncated seasons. Season seven of "Game of Thrones" will run only seven episodes instead of the usual 10.

Bloys also confirmed that season seven's delayed start of production (for reasons obvious to anyone who has listened to a Stark at any point, they need to wait for winter) will mean that the show is ineligible for consideration at the 2017 Emmy Awards. So, too, did he the possibility of spin-offs (Game of Whatever Happened Back in Meereen?).

But, as in King's Landing, nothing is settled that simply: a spokesperson from HBO then told BuzzFeed "didn't really say for sure that's the end." Still, Bloys's statement seems to suggest that the executive producers' creative vision will win out over HBO's commercial interests. Which means that, in all likelihood, there are but two seasons left for the Iron Throne to be won and for Slate writers to determine who is, in fact, the worst person in Westeros. (Littlefinger, guys. It's Littlefinger.)

July 30 2016 4:33 PM

Police Officer Killed in Hostage Standoff as Protest Swallows Streets of Yerevan

Two weeks ago, when armed men seized a police station in Armenia's capital city, Yerevan, demanding regime change and calling for all to take to the streets, it seemed unlikely that anyone would listen.

But that was two weeks ago. All hostages were released on July 23 (six days into the conflict, and the day after the president's website finally made mention of the situation). But the standoff between the men—who want the release of opposition leader Jirair Sefilian and the resignation of Serge Sarkisian, Armenia's president—and authorities has continued. On Saturday, after police threatened to storm the station, dozens were injured, and an officer was shot dead.


What's more, thousands in Yerevan have taken to the streets. As the Guardian notes, this itself is not new news: this is the fourth consecutive summer of protests in Armenia. But it is the first demanding not reform, but regime change. Whether authorities will be able to resolve this conflict wiht their civil society is still to be seen.

That it has devolved into violence is not without irony. Sefilian has been an outspoken critic of how Sarkisian has handled the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, a conflict between Armenia and neighboring Azerbaijan that has lasted for decades, with the most recent flare-up of fighting in April and deaths on both sides since then.

July 30 2016 2:52 PM

Good for the Person Who Gave Bill Clinton This Box of Lincoln Logs

We are in the midst of a campaign so charged and fraught that it has led Carl Bildt, former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs, to say that the security of the Western world hangs in the balance.

And so, when and where we can, without losing our sense of the weight of history, it is perhaps helpful to remember that there is still joy in the world. Specifically, on Bill Clinton's face in this picture of him holding a can of Lincoln Logs in what appears to be a toy factory.


Based on Hillary Clinton's schedule, and the fact that Bill Clinton is apparently on the road with Clinton (Hillary edition) and her running mate, Tim Kaine, one imagines that this photo of our 42nd president was taken at a manufacturing event in Pennsylvania. We can speculate as to why, but we do not know for certain. No, the only certainty here is that Bill Clinton was given a can of Lincoln Logs by some kind campaign and/or toy factory staffer and was glad to have received it. Good for all involved.

July 30 2016 2:23 PM

Russian Weightlifters Banned from Rio, Russian Minister of Sport Threatens Legal Action

Russia's weightlifting team was barred on Friday from participating in the Rio Olympics due to doping. According to the BBC, "Two of the eight-strong weightlifting team had already been banned for prior violations, and another four were named in the McLaren report into the issue."

The weightlifters are just the latest bump in Russia's rocky road to Rio. Russia's track and field team has been barred from participating in Rio since November. Then, in May, following years of whistleblowing attempts and speculation, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow laboratory that was meant to prevent doping, revealed to the New York Times a state-sponsored doping program put in place after Russia's dismal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. That story led to a World Anti-Doping Agency report that confirmed Rodchenkov's story and linked the program to both Russia's Deputy Minister of Sport, Yuriy Nagornykh, and Russia's intelligence services, the FSB. As a result of the report (carried out by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren), anti-doping officials from several nations requested that Russia be barred from Rio.


On Sunday, the International Olympic Committee, which had promised strongest sanctions, declined to ban the entire Russian delegation. Instead, the International Federation (IF) for each sport—not just the 20(!) implicated in the McLaren report—must decide whether its Russian delegation can compete. The IOC specified that national anti-doping evidence is insufficient proof, and that an international test and thorough analysis must be conducted. McLaren has been inundated with requests for information on individual athletes. Further, any athlete who had been sanctioned in the past would be barred (including track's former whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, who was previously cleared to compete under a neutral flag).

Russia held a competition in Moscow on Thursday—the day the national team left for Rio—for those athletes who had been barred for doping. Russia's Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko, said 272 of the originally selected 387 were cleared to compete in the Games themselves (which means 115 were not). Mutko also said earlier today that Russia is planning to take legal action. "We will analyse each line and proceed legally against it," he said on Match TV, a Russian sports channel. He added that banned athletes are planning to sue the authorities after the Olympics are over. One imagines that, like the sad substitute competition in Moscow, any reward for such legal action, being no match for an earned medal, would come as cold comfort to the athletes in question.

July 30 2016 12:39 PM

Trump Declares He Doesn’t “Have to Be So Nice Anymore”

In blogging about the news and Donald Trump and the intersection of the two, one must ask oneself: Is this a story or not a story? The following is almost certainly not a story, but nevertheless, in its way, it deserves to be told.

On Friday, while campaigning in Colorado, Trump, in his first appearance after Hillary Clinton’s speech on the final night of the Democratic National Convention, responded to chants of “lock her up” by saying, “I’ve been saying let’s just beat her on November 8. But you know what, I’m starting to agree with you.”


He continued, “You know it’s interesting. Every time I mention her, everyone screams ‘lock her up, lock her up.’ They keep screaming. And you know what I do? I’ve been nice ... But after watching that performance last night—such lies—I don’t have to be so nice anymore. I’m taking the gloves off.”

Trump regularly refers to Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” on Twitter; has said that all Hillary Clinton has is “the woman’s card”; called his opponent a “world-class liar”; and, in his speech at the Republican National Convention, said Hillary Clinton’s legacy is “death, destruction, and weakness” and accused her of proposing “mass lawlessness.” (For a fuller list of things Donald Trump has said about Hillary Clinton, please consult this excellent New Yorker article, Blythe Roberson’s “Things Donald Trump Has Said About Hillary Clinton That Could Double As My Tinder Bio.”) None of which is particularly nice!

But it is nicer than what is to come, for Donald Trump has announced that he will not be nice to Hillary Clinton anymore.

Also on Friday, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, who does indeed follow Donald Trump on Twitter, said that politics is no place for name-calling. (He was referring to President Obama implying that Trump is a demagogue and not, of course, to his running mate, Donald Trump.)

July 30 2016 12:16 PM

Navy Ship to Be Named After LGBTQ Rights Icon Harvey Milk

In 1978, when gay rights activist Harvey Milk was assassinated, homosexuality was considered reason enough to discharge people from the military or to prevent them from enlisting in the first place. In 2016, the U.S. Navy purportedly seeks to name a ship after Milk.

From NPR:

The news came in a report published by the U.S. Naval Institute, citing a notification sent to Congress earlier this month by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, signaling his intention to name a Military Sealift Command fleet oiler after Milk. The Navy has not officially confirmed the plan.
... Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California. As a young man, he served in the Navy as a diving officer during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged from the service with the rank of lieutenant in 1955.

After his time in the Navy, Milk worked as a public school teacher, stock analyst, and Broadway production assistant. His opposition to the Vietnam War, however, became his entry into activism. In 1972, he moved to San Francisco, where he organized the Castro Village Association, “a first in the nation organizing of predominantly LGBT businesses.” He ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors a year after he moved to the city. He lost again in 1975, but was elected in 1977 and was inaugurated in January 1978. He was assassinated later that year.

Some, like Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk, have said that Harvey would be glad to have a ship named after him, given that it is a signal and symbol of our more accepting, authentic society. Former Milk intern Cleve Jones, however, noted that, while that is true, Harvey Milk “did not like war.”

The USNS Harvey Milk will be one in a series of ships named for civil rights icons (per NPR, the “series of vessels [is] known as the John Lewis–class, named for civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis,” and also includes ships named for Robert F. Kennedy and Sojourner Truth.

July 30 2016 11:52 AM

Clinton Campaign’s Computer Program Also Hacked

The days following the Democratic National Convention have brought both good and bad news for the Clinton campaign.

The good: The Clinton campaign now has a significant lead over Trump.


The bad: They, like the DNC, have been hacked.

From Reuters:

A Clinton campaign spokesman said in a statement late on Friday that an analytics data program maintained by the DNC and used by the campaign and a number of other entities “was accessed as part of the DNC hack.”
... a campaign official said hackers had access to the analytics program’s server for approximately five days. The analytics data program is one of many systems the campaign accesses to conduct voter analysis, and does not include social security numbers or credit card numbers, the official said.

This is “the third such attack on sensitive Democratic targets disclosed in the last six weeks,” carried out almost certainly by Russian hackers. There is an investigation underway by the U.S. Department of Justice’s national security division as to whether this constitutes a threat to U.S. security.

Much has already been written about how and why it is wrong for a foreign government to try to sway an American election, and some proverbial ink has been spilled on how Putin’s Russia—which has long believed itself to be the victim of Western meddling—perceives this as payback. Now, however, experts and pundits alike are turning to whether foreign hackers could sway not the course, but the very outcome of elections by hacking voting machines in November. But then, still others have penned pieces saying that this paranoid parlance is Putin’s point.

July 30 2016 11:35 AM

Clinton Takes the Lead in First Post–DNC Poll

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton smiles a cautious smile.

All right: We do not actually know that that is what she's doing. But we can imagine it might be so, because the first post–Democratic National Convention poll shows Clinton 15 points ahead of her political rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump.


The poll comes from RABA Research, a bipartisan polling firm, which conducted an online nationwide survey the Friday following the convention.

Among likely voters, Clinton is now polling at 46 percent; Donald Trump, 31 percent. Libertarian Gary Johnson’s polling at 7 percent; the Green Party’s Jill Stein, 2. (The day after the Republican National Convention, RABA had Clinton and Trump at 39 and 34, respectively.)

From RABA:

“After closing the gap to single digits last week, Trump’s post-convention bounce has disappeared,” said RABA Research’s John Del Cecato, a Democratic partner with the firm. “While Trump continues to struggle to consolidate support within his own party, Clinton has a sizable lead among independents, and is even peeling off a small slice of Republican voters.”

This is but one poll, and there will surely be more to come in the 100 days between now and Election Day. Its significance comes from the fact that it is the first taken entirely after the DNC.

For its reliability, we turn, as ever, to Nate Silver.

July 30 2016 10:46 AM

Khizr M. Khan’s Address to the DNC Was His Own

Update, 12:53 PM: Donald Trump responded anew on ABC’s This Week by asking “Who wrote that?” (please see headline of this piece) and saying that, contrary to Khan’s assertions, he has sacrificed a lot.

Original post: What was to many the most moving moment of the Democratic National Convention did not come from a speechwriter. Though there were notes in the teleprompter, the speaker says they went unused.


When Khizr M. Khan, father of fallen American Captain, Humayun Khan, told millions on Thursday night that Donald Trump has “sacrificed nothing and no one,” he did so from words long practiced “in my head and in my mind.”

From Politico:

The Clinton campaign offered to put him in contact with a speechwriter. He declined. He knew what he wanted to say. He practiced at home with his family, leaning on 40 years of experience as an attorney that taught him “how to control my thoughts, my emotions and my message.”
On the day of the speech, he grabbed his worn copy of the Constitution and slipped it in his jacket pocket. He carries it regularly, especially when he travels. “It’s my favorite document. I wanted to use it because I wanted to highlight the protections that immigrants have in this country.”

Of the speech, Trump said only (in a lightning-round interview with Maureen Dowd for the New York Times), “I’d like to hear his wife say something.” Khan’s wife, Ghazala, stood silently by his side during the speech. She says she did not speak because she is still mourning the loss of her son.

On Friday, both Khans appeared on MSNBC’s The Last Word. Khizr Khan (who is not, as Politico notes, even a registered Democrat) delivered what he said was the second half of the speech—and emotionally asked Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, whom he said he considers patriots and decent humans, to repudiate Trump. “There comes a time,” he implored, “when a moral stand has to be taken, regardless of the political cost.”

July 30 2016 10:10 AM

Parts of Wisconsin Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin ruled on Friday that parts of the state's voter ID law, as well as other voting laws, are unconstitutional—specifically, the parts that seem to have been meant to discriminate against minority voters.

U.S. District Judge James Peterson, in a 119-page ruling issued late Friday, said that the state Legislature tailored that part of the law to curtail voting in Milwaukee, specifically “to suppress the reliably Democratic vote of Milwaukee’s African-Americans.”
“Wisconsin has the authority to regulate its elections to preserve their integrity,” Peterson wrote, “and a voter ID requirement can be part of a well-conceived election system. But ... parts of Wisconsin’s election regime fail to comply with the constitutional requirement that its elections remain fair and equally open to all qualified electors.”

Unless overturned on appeal, Peterson's ruling will take effect for the general election (as will, in all likelihood, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th circuit's decision that North Carolina's new voting restrictions were unconstitutional.)

Peterson, who lambasted the reduction of time for in-person voting from 30 to 12 days before the election as discriminatory, said "the Legislature's objective was political." He also wrote that "the state’s current process for getting free IDs to people who lack such documents [as birth certificates] unconstitutional and 'a wretched failure' because it has left a number of overwhelmingly black and Hispanic citizens unable to obtain IDs."

Anything else?

Peterson also threw out a requirement that dorm lists to be used as proof of residence for college students contain citizenship information; tossed a 28-day residency requirement; barred a prohibition on distributing absentee ballots by fax or email; and ended a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs.

He did, however, say that prohibitions on voting the Monday before an election makes sense, that clerks might have a day of rest.

Wisconsin's State Department of Justice plans to appeal the decision, of which Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said, “We are disappointed in the decision by an activist federal judge...Voters support common-sense measures to protect the integrity of our votes." Governor Walker did not specify which votes he considers "ours."