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May 17, 2018
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The Senate on Thursday voted 54-45 to confirm Gina Haspel as the director of the CIA. She will be the first woman to lead the spy agency.

Haspel had faced fierce criticism for her involvement in previous CIA torture programs, including at a "black site" in Thailand in 2002. Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who was absent from the vote as he undergoes cancer treatment away from the Senate, had urged his colleagues to vote against Haspel, calling her previous actions "disqualifying." McCain was tortured as a prisoner of war after he was captured in Vietnam.

During her testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, Haspel had declined to say the CIA's actions were "immoral." But she was more explicit in a letter released earlier this week, saying that "the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken." Kimberly Alters

August 17, 2018

In an attempt to deliver a zinger on Twitter, Republican Senate nominee Corey Stewart may have only succeeded in zinging himself.

The Virginia candidate often tweets inventive hashtags about his political rivals, sometimes with disastrous results. On Friday, Stewart shared a picture of "AntifaTimKaine," depicting Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) shaking hands with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Ignoring the fact that the U.S. and Soviet Union were allies at the time that photo of Stalin was taken, Stewart joked that Kaine and Stalin were "discussing economic policy" back in 1944, making it out to be scathing commentary on Kaine's policies. Stewart is looking to unseat Kaine, but Kaine's communications director didn't seem too worried about the latest doctored images, pointing to Stewart's support of a white supremacist candidate and providing some edited photos of his own.

Stewart's inflammatory rhetoric isn't coming to an end any time soon, he said, promising more surely-hilarious photos of his opponent "playing golf with Karl Marx!" Summer Meza

August 17, 2018

Nothing ever ends — which is why HBO is bringing Watchmen back to the screen.

The network is set to get started on its first-ever superhero series with Watchmen. Spearheaded by Damon Lindelof, who is most recently known for his work on The Leftovers, the classic graphic novel will experience a new twist when it comes to the small screen. A pilot for the show was ordered back in 2017, and the series is now headed for a 2019 premiere, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

Lindelof has referred to his adaptation as a "remix," with HBO adding that it will be set in an "alternate history where 'superheroes' are treated as outlaws." But even with changes in the works, many of the major characters from the graphic novel will feature in the show. The network has chosen a star-studded cast to step into the iconic superhero shoes, too, with Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Tim Blake Nelson, and Louis Gossett Jr. all set to appear.

Watchmen is just one of many new dramas coming to HBO. With Game of Thrones gearing up to its series finale, the premier channel has been ordering new series left and right. Projects from notable creators such as J.J. Abrams, Jordan Peele, and Joss Whedon have all been given the green light.

The last time Watchmen saw screen time was in Zack Snyder's 2009 film adaptation, so it'll be interesting to see how the show gets reimagined 10 years later for television. Read more about the series at The Hollywood Reporter. Amari Pollard

August 17, 2018
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stunned the nation when she defeated longtime Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a Democratic primary back in June. In vanquishing Crowley, who held the fourth-highest position in Democratic House leadership, Ocasio-Cortez showed the appeal a political newcomer can have in a party increasingly fed up with its old ways.

But Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim exposed the potential pitfalls of Ocasio-Cortez's greenness in a tweet Friday, calling out the probable congresswoman for holding a public event that was closed to the press. Kim tweeted out a story from the Queens Chronicle, a local paper in the district Ocasio-Cortez is hoping to represent this fall, that noted, "Unless you were in the room Sunday, you won't know what specific community problems were mentioned. ... That's because her campaign banned members of the media from attending the event, which was otherwise open to the public."

Kim noted that Ocasio-Cortez would be "in for a rough time on Capitol Hill" if her preference is to avoid reporters. When Ocasio-Cortez's campaign said it "wanted to help create a space where community members felt comfortable," the reporter noted that the campaign could've just made the event entirely private to ensure that.

Ocasio-Cortez herself eventually responded to Kim's tweets, writing that because the community is "50 percent immigrant" and includes "victims of [domestic violence], trafficking, and ... personal medical issues," the event was "designed for residents to feel safe discussing sensitive issues in a threatening political time." She also noted that her campaign had told press in advance that they were not welcome at the event. Kim responded: "You cannot ban members of the press from events that are otherwise open to the public. ... Period."

Ocasio-Cortez is virtually guaranteed to prevail in the general election in New York's heavily Democratic 14th District. Read the original Queens Chronicle article here. Kimberly Alters

August 17, 2018
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Paul Manafort's trial is coming to an end with some curious new developments.

Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, is facing 18 charges of tax evasion, money laundering, and bank fraud. The jury has been deliberating since yesterday, after the prosecution made its case for two weeks and the defense decided not to call any witnesses. But the judge overseeing the trial, T.S. Ellis, emphasized Friday that those jurors will remain anonymous through the entire process, telling reporters he'd "received threats" and didn't want the jury to experience the same.

BuzzFeed News reports that Ellis denied a request to release the names of the jurors, saying "in a case of this notoriety," publicizing the names would cause people to "be scared." He said that he has been living with "the [U.S. Marshals'] protection at all times, they go where I go. I don't even go to the hotel alone," but added that he was surprised by the threats. "I had no idea this case would excite these emotions, I will tell you frankly," he said.

While Ellis said in the morning that he expected the jury to announce a verdict by the end of the day, it appears the jurors are not pleased to have given up their summer Friday hours. Jurors reportedly sent a note to the judge that said they want to leave no later than 5 p.m., and Manafort's attorney told Fox News that the jury wanted to wrap things up as early as possible.

Trump on Friday defended Manafort as a "good person," calling the trial "very sad." He declined to answer a question about whether he would offer Manafort a pardon if he is convicted. Summer Meza

August 17, 2018
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IKEA is setting aside its signature minimalist design style for something a little more ... ostentatious.

The Swedish furniture company is going a little avant-garde with some upcoming "pretty, ugly, lovely objects," Fast Company reported Friday. Instead of clean lines and simple functionality, IKEA is collaborating with decidedly un-IKEA-like artists who are bringing a new sensibility to the store's decor items.

In its latest "maximalist" collection, artist Per B Sundberg is creating a line of "future antiques" that are meant to look one-of-a-kind, quirky, and handmade. Poodle-shaped candle holders will be sold alongside sculptural trinkets that would definitely add some intrigue to any apartment — especially if that apartment was previously furnished with IKEA's comparatively dull Grönlid sofa.

The line is set to launch next month, with items like banana-shaped vases available for less than $30. "Each piece of the Föremål collection is different, representing more than function and going beyond reason," the company said in promotional materials. Indeed, shoppers looking for both reasonable, inexpensive flatware and "beyond reason" skull-shaped planters need look no further. Read more at Fast Company. Summer Meza

August 17, 2018
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At least 324 people in the southern Indian state of Kerala have died in the past nine days after heavy rain caused severe flooding, officials told The Associated Press on Friday.

Rescuers evacuated thousands of people in Kerala, entering with helicopters and boats Friday to help. Many people were stranded on their rooftops, rescued by one of more than a dozen helicopters. More than 220,000 have evacuated to state-run relief camps, following weeks of rain that has caused landslides and destroyed homes and bridges all over the region.

While monsoon season is deadly every year in India, officials said this season was unprecedented in its severity. Kerala's hospitals are reporting shortages of oxygen, gas stations are running out of fuel, and a major airport in the state suspended all flights, citing a flooded runway.

Across seven Indian states, more than 1,000 people have died since monsoon season began in June, with Kerala being hit hardest. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

August 17, 2018
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The income gap keeps growing. Chief executives at 350 of the largest companies in the U.S. now make 312 times more than their average employee, research from the Economic Policy Institute found.

Compensation for CEOs keeps growing, The Hill reported Friday, while employee compensation stagnates. In 2017, CEOs made an average of $18.9 million, a 17.6 percent increase from the year before. Meanwhile, the wages of average workers increased just 0.3 percent.

The think tank said that pay for CEOs has grown at a much faster rate than stock prices or corporate profits at these major companies. Executive compensation has risen nearly 1,000 percent since 1978, which continues to push the CEO-to-worker pay ratio wider. In 2016, the ratio was 270-to-1, while in 1995 it was 112-to-1. Back in 1965, the ratio was just 20-to-1.

"CEO pay continues to be very, very high and has grown far faster in recent decades than typical worker pay," the institute report said. "Higher CEO pay does not reflect correspondingly higher output or better firm performance. Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers." See more results at the Economic Policy Institute. Summer Meza

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