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October 13, 2017
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The flag flies triumphantly above the building, gently fluttering in the wind, alerting people far and wide that a person of great honor and distinction is inside. No, it's not the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace — it's Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has a staffer climb up to the roof of his department's Washington headquarters and hoist up a special secretarial flag to signal that he's shown up to work for the day.

When Zinke leaves the office or travels, another employee makes the trek up to the roof to take down the flag, which features the agency's bison seal. If Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt is in while Zinke is gone, he has his own special banner that goes up. Asked by The Washington Post what the point was of all this exactly, spokeswoman Heather Swift said it was "a major sign of transparency," adding that Zinke is "restoring honor and tradition to the department, whether it's flying the flag when he is in garrison or restoring traditional access to public lands."

While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a personal flag flying next to the U.S. flag at State Department headquarters at all times, following in the footsteps of his predecessors, Zinke is the first interior secretary to do it, the Post reports, and not even the White House flies the presidential flag when President Trump is inside. Zinke might be a trailblazer, and others in the administration could soon emulate him — be on the lookout for EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's banner, emblazoned with smoke stacks and oil-covered birds. Catherine Garcia

2:49 p.m. ET
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It's been two months since The New York Times dropped its Harvey Weinstein bombshell, spurring sexual harassment victims to speak out against the biggest names in politics and entertainment.

Now, the Weinstein story continues. In a New York Times op-ed published Wednesday, actress Salma Hayek details years of horrifying encounters with the man she calls her "monster."

Hayek's op-ed revolves around her time working with Weinstein on the Miramax movie Frida, in which she starred as artist Frida Kahlo. Weinstein's abuse began with lewd sexual demands and turned to violent threats, Hayek says. He additionally tried to infuse sex appeal into the movie, which Hayek says he told her was "the only thing I had going for me." Weinstein nearly refused to release the film in theaters altogether, Hayek writes.

Frida ended up winning two Oscars, but Hayek says she just wanted to distance herself from the whole experience. Even when reporters approached Hayek for the initial Weinstein story, she declined:

I had brainwashed myself into thinking that it was over and that I had survived; I hid from the responsibility to speak out with the excuse that enough people were already involved in shining a light on my monster. I didn't consider my voice important, nor did I think it would make a difference. [Salma Hayek, via The New York Times]

But after so many women spoke out, Hayek says, she was "inspired" to come forward. Read Hayek's entire account at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:44 p.m. ET
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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson extended an olive branch — or at least, an olive twig — to North Korea, saying the U.S. was willing to have talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Predictably, Tillerson's optimism was undercut just a day later by the White House, in keeping with a year-long pattern of President Trump disregarding statements made by his secretary of state.

"Given North Korea's most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time [for negotiations]," a White House spokesman said to Reuters on Wednesday. Last month, Trump told South Korea's parliament that he would not negotiate with Kim Jong Un unless North Korean leaders "cease their threats and dismantle their nuclear program."

While Tillerson did say that the U.S. needed "a period of quiet" before coming to the negotiating table, on Tuesday he invited North Korea to "talk anytime" — breaking with longstanding U.S. policy by opening the diplomacy door even if North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's most recent missile test on Nov. 30 showed that it now possesses missiles that are likely capable of hitting the continental United States. Throughout Tillerson's bizarre tenure as secretary of state, Trump has frequently struck a more aggressive tone on North Korea than his top diplomat. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:40 p.m. ET
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Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) told her colleagues at a private Democratic Caucus meeting Wednesday that she believes some lawmakers' clothing choices are "an invitation" for sexual harassment, Politico reports. The comments reportedly stunned other Democrats in attendance, with one claiming "nearly everyone in the room's mouths were wide open aghast."

"I saw a member yesterday with her cleavage so deep it was down to the floor," Kaptur, 71, allegedly said at the meeting, which was convened to discuss recent sexual harassment controversies on Capitol Hill. She reportedly added: "Maybe I'll get booed for saying this, but many companies and the military [have] a dress code. I have been appalled at some of the dress of ... members and staff. Men have to wear ties and suits."

In a statement to Politico, Kaptur clarified that "under no circumstances is it the victim's fault if they are harassed in any way. I shared the stories from my time here in the context of the 'Me Too' legislation and how we can elevate the decorum and the dress code to protect women from what is a pervasive problem here and in society at large."

The House has a fairly strict dress code that not infrequently leads to appalling shirt-tie combinations, although House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) moved to relax rules last summer after controversy erupted over women not being allowed to wear sleeveless dresses around the chamber. Read more about Kaptur's comments at Politico. Jeva Lange

2:11 p.m. ET
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Kebab lovers in Europe just won a huge legislative victory.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament rejected a proposed ban on additives that add flavor to kebab meats, The Guardian reports. Green and Social Democrats in the legislative body had proposed nixing the ingredients, claiming that consumption of phosphate chemicals is linked to heart disease.

But kebabs sans phosphates aren't so tasty, kebab lovers argue. The chemicals are added in small quantities to the huge chunks of meat that are roasted on vertical spits in order to make them juicier, and phosphate fans say the additives also play a large role in keeping the meat from disintegrating as it cooks.

The ban on phosphates was defeated by just three votes — but the debate is not entirely over. The EU's European Food Safety Authority will release the findings of a study on the risks of phosphates next year. In the meantime, Europe's Christian Democrats celebrated the triumph bluntly: "We saved your kebab. You're welcome." Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:01 p.m. ET

A new nationwide Monmouth University poll released Wednesday does not have a lot of good news for Republicans. Perhaps most stunning are the results of a generic 2018 House ballot, where Democrats hold a 15-point edge on the GOP. Overall, 51 percent of registered voters said that if the election was held today, they'd vote or lean toward voting for the Democrat in the race. Just 36 percent of voters said they'd vote or lean toward voting for the Republican.

Politico's Jake Sherman offered some insight on just how significant that chasm is:

The director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, Patrick Murray, said there could be even more bad news for Republicans due to President Trump's approval rating hitting its lowest number since he took office. "Republicans have to be worried about being dragged down by the weight of Trump's negatives in 2018 if this trend continues," Murray said. Overall, Trump's approval rating is a mere 32 percent, while 56 percent of Americans disapprove:

The numbers out of Monmouth don't appear to be a fluke. Pew also recorded Trump at his lowest approval rating ever last week. Additionally, Suffolk University found that among Fox News watchers, Trump has plummeted from a 90 percent approval rating in January to a mere 58 approval rating in December.

Read the full results of the Monmouth poll here. It reached 806 adults in the U.S. between Dec. 10-12, and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent. Jeva Lange

1:52 p.m. ET

Politically, Meghan McCain and Joe Biden have a lot to argue about. But emotionally, they're on the same page.

McCain, the daughter of Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), and the former Democratic vice president shared a heartwarming moment on The View on Wednesday as McCain emotionally discussed her father's cancer diagnosis. The senator was diagnosed with gliobastoma earlier this year — the same cancer that Biden's son, Beau, passed away from in 2015.

On the show, McCain tearfully told Biden how she thinks about Beau almost every day because of the shared diagnosis. Biden quickly walked over to McCain and grabbed her hand, describing how Beau looked up to her father and his courage, long before they were affected by the same illness.

Biden and the senator are longtime friends. "There is hope," Biden told McCain. "And if anybody can make it, your dad [can]." Watch the whole exchange below. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:12 p.m. ET
Screenshot/Youtube/Liberty Day Institute

President Trump's ex-ghost-hunting federal judicial nominee — deemed "not qualified" by the American Bar Association but nevertheless approved by Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote — will not ultimately "be moving forward" in the appointment process, NPR learned from a Trump administration official Wednesday. Brett Talley, 36, was in line for a lifetime appointment despite having never tried a case in his life, only practicing law for three years, and forgetting to mention his wife is the chief of staff to White House counsel Don McGahn and thus a potential person of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

The head of the judiciary committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), urged Trump not to proceed with the nomination of Talley on Tuesday, CNN reports. The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), weighed in, saying: "I would hope that Chairman Grassley's request that the White House pull these nominations leads him to reconsider the breakneck speed at which the Judiciary Committee has been considering nominees."

The next step in Talley's nomination process would have been a full Senate vote, where it was unclear he had the support to be confirmed. Trump, on the other hand, had earlier directly praised Talley as being an "untold story" that "nobody wants to talk about." Jeva Lange

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