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August 10, 2018

It seems somehow fitting that a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame has become a symbolic battleground for America's stark divide on President Trump. The Donald Trump star, in honor of The Apprentice, has been destroyed twice in the past two years, most recently in late July. The man who claimed responsibility for taking a pickax to Trump's star, Austin Clay, was bailed out of jail by James Otis, the man who took a sledgehammer to the star in November 2016. And the West Hollywood City Council just voted unanimously to remove the star over his treatment of women, a decision that isn't theirs to make.

But the fear of losing the Trump star was enough to spur a group of Trump-loving street artists to jump into action, and on Wednesday night, they installed dozens of vinyl Donald Trump stars on blank squares around the stars of Trump critics. "Keep taking down the @realDonaldTrump star, and we will further spread Trump Derangement Syndrome by installing a never ending stream of stars," the group, calling themselves The Faction, wrote on Twitter, with video of their work.

The unidentified conservative street artist who made the realistic-looking Trump stickers told The Hollywood Reporter he spent $1,000 on the first batch of stars, with the money coming at least partly from "a young and anonymous entrepreneur." "If no one peels these off, they could last there for 10 years," the artist said, but it's a good thing The Faction took pictures, because cleaning crews and employees of stores along Hollywood Blvd. began removing the stars at 5 a.m. Thursday.

The Faction isn't the only group going to silly lengths to make a brief, symbolic stand on the Donald Trump star. In a bout of world-class trolling, two men dressed as Russian soldiers stood guard over the star in the days after its most recent destruction.

Keep in mind, late July was really hot in Los Angeles. Peter Weber

3:18a.m.

In the final stretch of the 2018 elections, Republicans have quietly dropped their plans to run on their tax cut and the economy, Samantha Bee said on Wednesday's Full Frontal. "But don't worry, because Republicans have another cool technique for getting votes without doing anything useful: The terrifying culture wars." She had a graphic ready for that, and video clips. "Republicans control all three branches of government!" she protested. "How do you play the victim when you've won everything there is to win? Well, they've found a way: Telling people that Democrats will eat them."

Bee played some ads. "I wish the left were 'crazytown,'" she said. "By the way, do you know what is actually nuts? Conflating Nancy Pelosi with a handful of masked anarchists who hate Nancy Pelosi more than any Republican." She ran through various "scary "groups, like kneeling football players, Beto O'Rourke, and especially women. "The right is really painting a picture of liberal women as deadly bitch tornado," Bee said.

The hot new attack is the incessant incantation of the word "mob" connected to "left-wing" or "Democrat." "The only time I've seen an unhinged mob of Democrats is when NPR runs out of totes," Bee joked, conceding: "Well, if anyone would know about the mob, it's Donald Trump."

"So, is this culture war bulls--t actually working? " Bee asked. "It's unclear. The typical American voter is looking around and seeing that their wages are stagnating, their health care's in danger, and their boss just bought another mega-yacht. I tend to think that's gonna matter more than a few loud pussy hats." There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber

2:37a.m.

There's a growing consensus in Washington and Europe that Saudi Arabia, specifically Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is culpable in the Oct. 2 disappearance and likely murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And the latest group signaling its conviction of the crown prince's guilt is the U.S. intelligence community, The New York Times reports. This assessment, based so far on growing circumstantial evidence, poses a challenged for President Trump and some of his key advisers, who have urged patience and highlighted Saudi Arabia's denials and the kingdom's economic and strategic importance.

Trump can ignore or disagree with the U.S. intelligence assessment, the Times says, but so far he's keeping Congress out of the loop. The Trump administration has "clamped down" on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case and canceled a classified briefing scheduled for Tuesday, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday. "I suppose they don't want us to see the intel," he said, and "I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia." Based on previous intelligence he reviewed, Corker added, "everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS," as bin Salman is commonly called.

Other senators from both parties have also called for a stronger response to Saudi Arabia's apparently brutal murder inside its Istanbul consulate, and they can act without the White House, voting for sanctions with a veto-proof majority. But Trump is reportedly holding out for what The Washington Post calls a "mutually agreeable explanation" from the Saudis, one that avoids implicating MBS. "The president is trying to introduce a little calm into this, to wait and see who's directly responsible," Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani explained to the Post. "While he makes clear he doesn't approve of what has happened, it's complicated because this isn't a pure enemy he's dealing with, like if Iran did it." Peter Weber

1:33a.m.

It will be called the Harmony Playground, where all children will be free to play in their own way.

The town of Clayton, North Carolina, is planning on breaking ground for this inclusive project in 2019. The inspiration came after planners heard about the difficulties some families face when it comes to finding places where their children feel welcome. "You know, it really broke my heart when I started talking to parents that when they have children with special needs, that they avoid playgrounds," Dean Penny of the Clayton Recreational Foundation told WRAL.

Harmony Playground's design takes into account all kinds of special needs and disabilities; for example, the sidewalks will be at different elevations, so a child in a wheelchair will be able to wheel down to the lower level. Several businesses in the area are supporting the effort and helping raise funds, and the town is about halfway to its goal of $800,000. Catherine Garcia

12:55a.m.

Dennis Hof, a Republican candidate for the Nevada state legislature, died on Tuesday, but that might help him get even more votes, his campaign manager said Wednesday.

Hof, 72, owned five legal brothels and a strip club, wrote the book The Art of the Pimp, and appeared on the HBO show Cathouse. His name will stay on the ballot, campaign manager Chuck Muth told Reuters, and he has several things going for him — not only are there more registered Republicans than Democrats in his state Assembly district, but "there are a lot of Republicans who were uncomfortable voting for Dennis because of the nature of his business and they now know that he is not the one who will be serving. They will feel much more comfortable casting the ballot for him knowing there will be another Republican to replace him."

Assembly District 36 covers three counties, and if Hof wins, each county's board of commissioners would nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy, then hold a joint meeting to discuss the nominees and pick one to replace Hof before the 2019 legislative session starts, The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Catherine Garcia

12:37a.m.

President Trump gave quite the interview to The Associated Press on Tuesday, and Stephen Colbert ran through some of the highlights on Wednesday's Late Show: Whether it was appropriate to call Stormy Daniels "Horseface," Don Jr.'s meeting with Russian officials in Trump Tower, and, especially, Trump's continued ambivalence over climate change. Trump said he felt comfortable disagreeing with 97 percent of the world's scientists because he has an inherent, inherited knack for science, thanks to an uncle who was a professor at MIT. Colbert had some questions.

"First of all, why did you bring up your science uncle if you never talked to him about science?" Colbert asked. "And second, you have a 'natural instinct for science'? That's not how knowledge works. You don't inherit it from your uncle! The most you ever get from your uncle is your own nose back." Of course, Trump "and his petrochemical pals would like you to ignore global warming altogether, but that may not be possible soon," he said, "because a new study says that beer prices could double because of climate change. Or as the brothers at Sigma Phi Epsilon put it, 'Climate change just got real.'" And yes, there is a shout out to Brett Kavanaugh. Watch below. Peter Weber

12:10a.m.

The Washington Post published Jamal Khashoggi's presumptive final column on Wednesday, with a somber note from Global Opinions editor Karen Attiah.

Attiah wrote that she received the column, titled "What the Arab World Needs Most is Free Expression," from Khashoggi's translator and assistant one day after he was reported missing in Istanbul earlier this month. The Post didn't publish it right away, Attiah explained, hoping she and Khashoggi could edit the column together, but "now I have to accept: That is not going to happen. This is the last piece of his I will edit for the Post. This column perfectly captures his commitment and passion for freedom in the Arab world. A freedom he apparently gave his life for."

In the column, Khashoggi discusses the 2018 Freedom of the World report, which declares that just one country in the Arab world, Tunisia, can be classified as "free." Three other countries are "partly free" and the rest are "not free," which Khashoggi found unacceptable. "Arabs living in these countries are either uninformed or misinformed," he said, leaving them "unable to adequately address, much less publicly discuss, matters that affect the region and their day-to-day lives."

He wrote about the crackdown on writers and newspapers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and the importance of providing a "platform for Arab voices." People are facing poverty, poor education, and mismanagement, he concluded, and if there could be a forum "isolated from the influence of nationalist governments spreading hate through propaganda, ordinary people in the Arab world would be able to address the structural problems their societies face." Read the entire column at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

October 17, 2018

With the midterms only 20 days away, President Trump has been "sharing his thoughts on a variety of topics," Trevor Noah said on Wednesday's Daily Show, "including his favorite Chinese hoax, climate change." He recapped Trump's argument: "Trump says he doesn't believe in manmade climate change because his uncle was a scientist, and that means Trump has a 'natural instinct' for science. ... That's not how it works. If a pilot has a heart attack, they're never like: 'Is anyone on this plane related to a pilot?!?'"

But the question everyone really wants the answer to, Noah said, is this: "Does Trump believe Saudi Arabia was behind the disappearance and likely murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi?" Trump's critics say he's ignoring coldblooded murder by the Saudis because of money, and Trump seems to agree. "Say what you want about Trump, but he wears his moral bankruptcy on his sleeve," Noah marveled.

"President Trump is so eager to protect his possible weapons order that not only has he said, despite evidence, that he believes Saudi Arabia's side of the story, he's also said that they're the real victims here," Noah said — just as he had with a certain Supreme Court justice. "You're going to bring Brett Kavanaugh into this?" he gawked. "I like how Trump's way of dealing with an extremely sensitive issue is to bring in another extremely sensitive issue. He's like, 'Here to discuss school shootings, special guest speaker Bill Cosby!'"

"But you know what's funny?" Noah said. "In many ways, this is like the Kavanaugh situation. Trump says he wants to find out what happened, but in reality, he's already made up his mind. And you might be saying, 'Oh but Trevor, how do you know that the Saudi Arabians killed him? You're not a detective.' And that's true. But my uncle was a detective, so I've got it in my blood." Watch below. Peter Weber

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