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February 13, 2018
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Credit to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue for thinking outside the box — or, rather, thinking up a new box. Nestled in President Trump's 2019 budget proposal is a plan to transform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program into an "America's Harvest Box" full of government-picked nonperishable items. The boxes would be distributed to the roughly 16 million U.S. households getting at least $90 a month in food stamps. Perdue called his Harvest Box idea "a bold, innovative approach" that would give low-income families the "same level of food value as SNAP" at considerably lower costs.

"Secretary Perdue wanted to give it a chance," White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Monday. "We thought it was a tremendous idea." Apparently unimpressed with the "America's Harvest Box" branding and enticing pitches like "same level of food value," however, Mulvaney called the idea a "Blue Apron-type program" — which, Politico notes, compares Perdue's boxes to the "high-end meal kit delivery company that had one of the worst stock debuts in 2017 and has struggled to hold onto customers."

The Blue Apron comparison has other problems, too. Blue Apron specializes in delivering fresh fruit, meat, and produce to customers' doors. The Harvest Boxes would include staples like shelf-stable milk, peanut butter, pasta, cereals, beans, canned meat and fish, and canned fruit and vegetables — in other words, nothing fresh. And USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh said states would have "flexibility" in how they got the boxes to SNAP recipients, adding, "The projected savings does not include shipping door-to-door for all recipients."

The plan has already gathered an unusual coalition of detractors — advocates for the poor, Walmart, rural mom-and-pop markets — and it faces long odds in Congress, which would have to approve the program. SNAP recipients would still get half of their monthly disbursement on a special debit card, like under the current system. Peter Weber

11:12 a.m. ET

Friends don't let friends get up in front of the world with a bit of dandruff on their shoulder, but friends also do not announce the dandruff situation to the multinational press, either. President Trump apparently only got the first part of the memo Tuesday when he praised his "very special relationship" with French President Emmanuel Macron before declaring, "I'll get that little piece of dandruff off [you]." The president of the United States then proceeded to brush the president of France's shoulder to remedy the problem.

As if to explain himself, Trump then said, "We have to make him perfect, he is perfect," while Macron laughed like an extremely good sport. Still — next time, a pointed look or a wordless brush disguised as a pat on the shoulder will do! Watch the awkward moment below. Jeva Lange

10:58 a.m. ET
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Former FBI Director James Comey's book is hot off the presses and hot on the bestseller list.

Comey's memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, has sold more than 600,000 copies in just its first week, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

It has already outsold many other polarizing, political books — including Hillary Clinton's post-election memoir, What Happened, and Michael Wolff's tell-all about President Trump's first months in office, Fire and Fury. Clinton's book sold around 300,000 copies in all formats in its first week, while Wolff's sold about 200,000 hardcover copies in its first week, the Times reports.

Comey's book recounts his experience as FBI director during the 2016 presidential election and under the Trump administration, detailing his decision to publicly announce an investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server and recalling conversations with Trump that eventually led to Comey's firing last year. The former FBI official has been on a major media blitz in recent weeks, drawing Twitter ire from the president and garnering countless headlines about the contents of the book.

The Times reports that Comey's publisher has had to order multiple reprints of his book to keep up with the booming sales, and has more than a million copies in print. Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

10:25 a.m. ET

"There is a Revolution going on in California," President Trump opined on Twitter last week. "Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept."

Research by Tom K. Wong, an associate professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, says otherwise. He interviewed a representative sample of nearly 600 illegal immigrants from Mexico in San Diego County, asking about how sanctuary city policies shape their interactions with police.

The results were dramatic: If "local law enforcement officials were working together with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)], 60.8 percent said they are less likely to report a crime they witnessed, and 42.9 percent said they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime." That stark difference held true across other scenarios, too:


(The Washington Post)

Wong concludes that sanctuary policies encourage undocumented immigrants to report crime to the police, and that "counties with sanctuary policies have less crime than comparable non-sanctuary counties, or that there is no statistically significant relationship between city sanctuary policies and increased crime rates." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian

10:08 a.m. ET

President Trump will share his first state dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening, and only Republicans are invited. Breaking with tradition, the White House did not include any members of the media or congressional Democrats.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said on CNN on Tuesday that the move would not have been his choice. "I would have included — and this is just me; the president can select his own management style — I would have included more of a cross-section. I would have included the media," he told host Chris Cuomo. "I think it would have sent a better message, just my opinion, if we included a cross-section of Congress. You can't include everybody, but that's Democrats, independents, and Republicans."

Watch a clip of the conversation below. Bonnie Kristian

9:50 a.m. ET
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The fierce debate on gun control has led people on both sides to put money where their mouths are.

The NRA raised more money in March 2018 than any other month in the past 15 years, Federal Elections Commission records reported by the Miami Herald show.

The organization's Victory Fund, used for backing political campaigns, raised $2.4 million last month, and the majority came from small donors who gave less than $200. The boom in fundraising coincided with student-led March for Our Lives protests, which followed a February school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people. The March for Our Lives Action Fund, meanwhile, has raised $3.5 million since Feb. 18, just four days after the shooting.

In March 2017, the NRA Victory Fund raised $884,000, while February 2018 brought in just $800,000. The major jump in last month's donations follows a pattern — the organization also saw a rise in fundraising after a 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The Herald reports that the NRA spends money from its Victory Fund on political campaigns for candidates who oppose stricter gun control laws, but is often limited by state and federal campaign finance laws. The organization spends many millions more through its lobbying arm: For example, it spent $31 million to oppose Hillary Clinton and support President Trump in the 2016 election. Read more at the Miami Herald. Summer Meza

9:31 a.m. ET

A deadly van attack broke through an idyllic afternoon in Toronto on Monday, when a man driving a white van mounted the sidewalk and crashed into pedestrians. The incident, which occurred on the city's famous Yonge Street, left 10 people dead and 15 more injured.

Hours later, the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Boston Bruins at Air Canada Centre for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup. The Leafs entered the series trailing 3-2, but kept their Stanley Cup hopes alive with a 3-1 win that forced a Game 7.

But before the triumph on the ice, the Leafs held a moment of silence for the lives lost on Yonge Street. Then came time for the customary performance of the national anthem, "O Canada," which Leafs anthem singer Martina Ortiz-Luis was set to sing — until the crowd chimed in. Watch the emotional moment below. Kimberly Alters

9:20 a.m. ET

The United Nations, the United Arab Emirates, and Iraq are banding together for a massive multimillion-dollar restoration of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri, which was destroyed by the Islamic State in Mosul, Iraq, last year. The centuries-old mosque was also where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate after his forces took control of Mosul during an offensive in northern Iraq and Syria in 2014. ISIS militants blew the structure up when Iraqi troops closed in last summer.

"You can find [the mosque] on money notes, you can find it in scrapbooks," Rasha Al Aqeedi, who grew up in Mosul, told The New York Times around the time of its destruction. "It's everywhere. I don't know how to put it into words. It's just something people always identified with because it was always there."

The project is expected to take five years, as all that remains of the mosque and its famous leaning minaret is the foundation and a barely-supported dome, BBC reports. The collaboration between the Iraqi and UAE governments and the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is "the largest and unprecedented cooperation to rebuild cultural heritage in Iraq ever," the UNESCO director said.

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"The five-year project is not just about rebuilding the mosque, the minaret, and the infrastructure, but also about giving hope to young Iraqis," explained UAE Culture Minister Noura al-Kaabi. The UAE has given some $50 million to the mosque's restoration. She added: "The millennia-old civilization must be preserved." See more images of liberated Mosul at The Week. Jeva Lange

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