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What A Day: Give Earpiece A Chance by Sarah Lazarus & Crooked Media (09/29/20)
"I'm part of that community, and we love the man." - Eric Trump momentarily sending the LGBTQ community into deep despair
The tension is palpable, the pundits are abuzz, and Facebook is blanketed with conspiracy theories about Joe Biden’s ear holes: We have arrived at the first 2020 presidential debate.
The first of three presidential debates will take place in Cleveland, OH, tonight at 9 p.m. ET, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. Wallace has selected six general topics: the candidates' records, the Supreme Court, the coronavirus, the economy, race and violence in cities, and election integrity. “Race and violence” plays straight into Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and the total exclusion of climate change seems like malpractice at best, but at least Wallace has also promised not to fact-check any of Trump’s lies.
Even with the benefit of those outrageous gifts, the Trump team seems, uh, less than confident about his readiness. Following Trump’s repeated attempts to manage expectations by baselessly suggesting that Biden would be on some kind of debate-enhancement drug, the Trump campaign today floated the dumb, recycled rumor that Biden would be wearing a secret earpiece (presumably because his Antifa-controlled brain implant is on the fritz). That conspiracy theory has proliferated unchecked on Facebook, and was even featured on the platform’s news tab. Another beautiful day in Zuckerberg’s Hellworld Funhouse!
“But will the debates even matter this year,” you ask?
Impossible to know! It’s true that polling has remained incredibly consistent since Biden emerged as the Democratic nominee. Biden heads into the debates with a consistent lead (two new Pennsylvania polls show him nine points ahead there), and if the pandemic, economic crisis, nationwide protests, and DNC Rhode Island Calamari Guy haven’t reshaped the race, it’s hard to imagine that a few debates will have an earth-shattering impact.
On the other hand, they don’t need to be earth-shattering. Trump has spent his whole campaign trying to paint Biden as a dementia-addled invalid hiding in his basement, and their direct confrontation will provide incontrovertible proof to the contrary. Polls suggest that most voters have already made up their minds, but the ones who haven’t largely don’t know much about Biden’s platform, and the debates are a huge opportunity to inform them.
We’ll have a recap of the night in Wednesday’s What A Day, and you can watch along with us for real-time commentary, fact-checking, and borderline-fireable jokes (if we can keep up with John Kerry) in the Crooked Groupthread →
Look No Further Than The Crooked Media
Once more for the people in the back: The first 2020 presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump is TODAY, September 29th at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific. Watch with us live on https://crooked.com/debate—we’ll be streaming the whole thing along with our Groupthread, where we and other familiar faces from the Crooked Media family will be breaking down what’s happening and giving our live commentary. Watch with us at https://crooked.com/debate →
Under The Radar
The White House put enormous pressure on the CDC to downplay the risk of sending kids back to school. Trump administration officials, including Dr. Deborah Birx, repeatedly leaned on CDC officials to provide data that could illustrate a decline in cases and low risk of infection or death for school-age children—“a snazzy, easy-to-read document” to back up Trump’s demands that schools reopen before the election. Other members of the coronavirus task force were told to go around the CDC to find alternative data to support the White House’s position. Recent data shows that coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased at a faster rate among children and teenagers, and it goes without saying that the Trump administration trying to circumvent science to put kids in danger for political gain should be an unrecoverable scandal.
The second installment of the New York Times report on Donald Trump’s tax returns outlines how The Apprentice temporarily rescued Trump from financial ruin. After burning through the cash his father gave him and somehow managing to lose money as a casino owner, Trump netted some $197 million from the show itself, and another $230 million through the various endorsements, hotel deals, and scams he secured through his resulting fame. Trump then borrowed from his more lucrative ventures to buy and prop up his many money-losing golf resorts, at the same time that Apprentice ratings and his licensing deals were in decline. That brilliant move helped land him in the financial hole where he once again resides, at great risk to our national security.
MIT researchers say the compact fusion reactor they’re building is likely to work, which could be a huge step forward in the fight against climate change. A federal appeals court has upheld a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin. Some U.S. Postal Service employees have been quietly resisting Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s harmful policies. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has signed a law allowing California to develop its own line of affordable generic drugs.
That reminds me of a story. After that last one, I thought you might all enjoy a short follow up. After Al, Chuck, Leo, returned to their other lives back in the world, they kept getting requests from various Agencies and Bureaus for more mine closure data, mostly focusing upon lines of documentation. The various Bureaus desired monographs, road guides, technical reports, and most importantly, detailed step-by-step “How To” manuals. My guys, now my fully credentialed doctored colleagues, were predictably reticent to write up “How To” manuals for something that was obviously not of their authorship nor inception. “Fuckin’-A, Rock,” Leo tells me in a phone call, “They want me to fuckin’ basically claim-jump you writing up mine closing procedures. What’s with these goatfuckers? They figured they paid you enough and are now trying to run a goddamned end around? Collective shitheels. No fucking way I’d even think of crossing, even accidently, the Motherfuckin’ Pro from Dover.” I replied that I had no idea, as after the initial contacts after the field season, I had heard precisely dick from any of the bureaus. Which is fine, as I’m busier than a one-armed paperhanger in a windstorm getting ready to shift the family some 12,700 kilometers east. I thanked Leo for the intel and told him not to worry, it’s just bureaucracy misfiring at its finest. “Fuckin’-A, Bubba,” replies Leo as he hangs up. It suddenly goes all dusty in my office. “I’ve trained that boy well,” I sniff and chuckle heartily. A short while later, Al wrote me that he’s been contacted by the Bureau/Agency and they are desirous that he lead a field trip with a gaggle of professors from various universities. They are also not all geologists, but Environmental Scientists, Hydrologists, something called an “Environmental Engineer,” and other forms of societal detritus. He tells me that they wanted him to lead a group of these characters out into the desert for a couple of weeks and show them the mine closure procedures which he developed. He was most adamant in assuring me that they contacted him, and that the terminology was also theirs. He was already otherwise engaged, so he naturally had to decline. However, he made it abundantly clear that he would never even entertain such a notion like the one they had posited. I wrote him back, as he was down in Patagonia doing something more or less interesting and/or exciting, thanking him for the information and wishing him well on his expedition. Since he was in the field, I also included a couple of the recipes we enjoyed back in the Nevada desert. He later tells me that the Gauchos he was working with down there have never heard of Pineapple Upside Down Cake and they absolutely were delighted by it. Come to find out, they also like potato juice and citrus drinks as well. “Good ol’ Dr. Good-deed. Aide to all men.” I pondered. I talked with Esme about all this and she was of the opinion that either they knew I was headed east or they wanted me to have some time off. I had been doing a lot of ad hoc work for both Agencies and Bureaus over the last few years. “Of course,” I replied, “Never ascribe to malice what can best be defined by governmental bureaucracy and officiousness.” So, time puttered on. We were holding weekly ‘GROJ (Get Rid Of Junk) sales’ on our weekends. Since everything electrical we possessed was 120 VAC, and the rest of the world, it seems, is 220 VAC, I had to part with all my antiquated electronics. My Fisher Studio-Standard stereo system, Akai reel-to-reel 16-track tape machines, EMI TG12345 MK IV recording console, and Harmon-Kardon turntables and amplifiers. It was painful. However, I rationalized, if I were to stick them in storage for a decade or two, I’d have re-paid for them via rental fees a couple or three times over. Plus, and all that sitting unused in a storage locker certainly wouldn’t be good for these vintage electronical gizmos. Still, it was a painful time to pack them into the back of someone else’s vehicle. I had to take all my firearms to my Brother-in-Law for safekeeping. Since he’s in Kentucky, he was both happy to accept and vowed to give them regular workouts. Even though he’s some form or another of mechanical engineer, I guess I could trust him. One day, the home phone rings. It’s Chuck and he’s livid. “Rock!” he hollers, “You know what those chapped bastards at the Bureau want from me? They want me to step in on your turf, and take a clan of idiot pseudo-geologists out in the field for a couple of weeks and train them in mine closing. Can you fucking believe that?” “Chuck,,” I say, “Whoa. Cool down. Leo and Al report the same, so it just looks like you were next on the list. So, going to take them up on their offer?” “Don’t make me laugh, Doc!” Chuck asks, “First: I’m busy. Second: I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to handle logistics, camping, explosives, and all that other bureaucratic horseshit you somehow put up with. Third: I really don’t want a midnight visit from you and your bag of tricks because I’ve pissed you off by taking credit for what’s rightfully yours.” “What is the fucking deal?” I ask Chuck, “I’m not like that at all. Everyone thinks I’m going go out and frag them because the Bureau asks them to do a job I did previously. Damn, I’m the most laid-back, gregarious, and even-tempered person on the planet; and I’ll mutilate the miserable manky motherfucker that says I’m not.” Chuck laughs nervously. “Hyperbole aside,” I continue, “It’s just that they know I’m headed out to the Middle East and don’t want to bother me right now; I suppose.” “Umm, Rock,” Chuck clears his thought, and gulps, “That’s not the reason they told me.” “Is that a fact?” I ask, “What did they give as a reason?” “Now, Rock, don’t take this wrong. This is Bureau-speak, not me,” Chuck wants to make the point vodka-clear, “But they felt you were the wrong person to lead this group of ‘scholars’. They were concerned with your…” Hesitation. “Spill it, Chuck,” I say. “Demeanor,” Chuck says, “Your conduct, your deportment, your behavior…” “I see someone got a Thesaurus for Christmas,” I said. “Rock, that’s them, not me,” Chuck continues, “They said you are too ‘wild and wooly’ to conduct this field expedition of ‘noted scholars’.” “Is that a fact?” I ask, rhetorically. “Just reporting to you what they told me, Bossman.” Chuck offers. “I appreciate it, Chuck. Thanks.” I reply, “Don’t sweat it. I’ll take it from here.” You could hear an audible expression of relief when we broke connection. After a couple of cocktails, I had simmered down a bit. Esme says that I need to call my Agency buddies and get the lowdown on the situation, as they’ll know what’s going on. For once, Esme is also very, very pissed off about the whole situation. Mama Bear’s claws were getting sharpened. “You are gone for months,” Es exclaims, “Train a bunch of greenhorns, exceed project requirements by over 200%, supply crucial scientific data on forensic activities, and take out a disaster they didn’t even know existed in that mine with the locker full of explosives!” “Yeah,” I reply, “Does seem a wee bit unappreciative.” “And then they pull this kind of shit!,” Es yells further, “Those ungrateful bastards. Fuck ‘em. Let them stew in their own futility. They call and you tell them to get stuffed. After all you did for them…” “Now, now, Dearest,” say, “Let me call Rack and Ruin. If anyone has the skinny on all this, they’ll have all the latest dope.” “Bastards!,” Es cries, “You damn near get killed several times over and this is their thanks?” “Yeah, I know, Darling,” I say, “Does seems a bit ungrateful and duplicitous.” Esme hands me the phone. “Phone. Call. Now.” She orders. Looks like I just got my marchin’ orders. “Yes, my love,” I reply. Even I know when I’m out-matched. RING RING RING Agent Rack answers and we go through the usual pleasantries… “What the flying fuck you mean ‘I’m too dangerous’?” I question Agent Rack. “Well, Doctor,” Rack tries to explain, “Your ‘cavalier’ attitude towards explosives. More of your ‘relationship’ with them. Not showing the proper deference…” “WHAT?,” I roar, “Ask anyone that has worked with me in the field! ‘Safety first, last, and foremost’. Just that I don’t fret and quail around explosives like a bunch of phonophobic, jumped-up, wet-pantied shuddering schoolgirls, when I have to demolish something, doesn’t mean I’m anything other than a goddamned consummate professional.” “Plus, Doctor, ” Rack continues, “It’s not the 1880’s any longer. A Stetson? A sidearm? A .454 Casull Magnum at that…” “You have got to be yanking my crank here, Rack.” I angrily reply, as I really hate it when someone calls me Doctor like that, “The hat keeps the sun off my head so I don’t get addled like those fuckers you’re talking with at the Bureau. The sidearm is for safety. Oh, yes; there’s that word again. It’s a fucking tool, just like my Estwing hammers or my galvanometer.” “Can’t kill anyone with a galvanometer,” Rack replies. “But I could with a hammer, myriad ways” I reply, “And give me five minutes, I’d figure out a way to ‘extract’ someone with a galvanometer...” “Doctor, do let me let you talk with Agent Ruin; I’m needed elsewhere,,” he tells me. Agent Ruin takes the phone. It’s the old Agency Two-Step. “Doctor is distraught,” he observes. “No, ‘Doctor’ is just plain damned mad.” I reply, “They contract me for a job that has never been attempted before and I complete it beyond their wildest expectations! This is my recompense?” “Well, Doctor,” Ruin continues, “I’m sure it’s strictly a business decision. It’s obviously nothing personal.” “It sure as fuck sounds personal,” I gripe back, as now I’ve gone from annoyed to genuinely pissed off, “I’m surprised they didn’t say something derogatory about my Hawaiian shirts.” “Oh, they did,” Agent Ruin lets slip. “Oh? OK, Fine. That’s is then,” I reply, “The joyfulness of this whole experience has left the building. Tell them to strike me from their fucking list. I’m done with them. I wash my hands of them. I’m off east anyways. Fuck that bunch of paper-pushing, deskbound, pencil-necked dickheads. Fuck them. Fuck them solid. Fuck them ‘till they bleed.” “Strong message to follow,” I add. “Doctor,” Agent Ruin reminds me, “Do I need to remind you that all our conversations are recorded?” “Oh, fuck no. I know that. So fucking what?” I growl, “Like I’m going to get tossed in Guantanamo for expressing a personal opinion? I can still do that in this fine country. Or has the First Amendment been repealed in my absence?” “Doctor, you’re obviously agitated,’ Ruin adds, “Perhaps we’ll talk again later when you’ve calmed down before you head to the Middle East.” “Yeah, about that,” I reply, “You shady characters can cross me off your fucking list as well. You’ve done nothing for me on this latest concern. Nothing! You couldn’t even give me the courtesy of a motherfucking heads-up. Guess that tells me all I need to know about the future of our relationship. Goodbye, Agent Ruin. Give Agent Rack my ‘Da Svidonya. I won’t be answering your calls any longer. “Doctor, I, um, wait…”Agent Ruin sputters. I continue: “And as long as I’m at it, tell that other Bureau to go hang as well. They want more data or shit from me, tell them to go find it elsewhere. And also tell them good luck with that. The three experts that exist in the world apart from me already told them to get bent. At least they possess loyalty and a dollop of comradeship. I’ll be shipping your phone and other items back via parcel post. Hasta la vista, Herr Ruin. Have a day.” CLICK-KER -FUCKING-SMASH! I hang up in the rudest way possible. “Clapped-out assholes,” I muse. “All those years of working together. All those years of building relationships around the world. It’s all kyboshed over a fucking Hawaiian shirt. I guess it was inevitable. Either I became too specialized or evolved myself out of being useful to them. Ah, well, their loss. Can’t be helped…” I take a healthy swig right from the prime vodka bottle. OK, several. “FUCKERS!” I scream at the wood-paneled ceiling, shaking my fist in vehement rage at the clouds coolly cruising by outside my window. Esme doesn’t come running. She doesn’t have to. She knows the score. I ship the Agency’s toys back to them with a terse note: “Thanks for all the nothing. Here’s your shit back. Dr. Rocknocker. PS: Get stuffed.” Not my best effort, I’ll agree. However, I was really pissed at that point. Now I have the time to devote solely to relocating my family and I overseas. Gad, there’s so much crap one must go through. What to sell, what goes in storage, what to trash, what to give away…the lists are endless. First to go are all my power tools. Fuckbuckets. It took me decades to amass that collection. I got a good price, sure, but now I’m more or less without a hobby. We decide to put all Esme’s lapidary equipment in storage. It’s too specialized to generate much interest, much less a decent price. Besides, they won’t rot in our absence. I can ship my fishing gear and golf clubs overseas. They’re American, but at least not 120 VAC. Our house goes on the market and we have to get it spiffed to within an inch of its life. Got to have that ‘curb appeal’. Good, let someone else do it, I’m busy. More unexpected expense. I give our house contractors out in New Mexico their marching orders. It’s going slow and will be a seasonal thing, but they guarantee me the house will be ready by next summer if they can source the slabs of Baraboo Quartzite I want. Splendid, that’s something I don’t have to follow up on every day. Then there’s our aquarium. 250 gallons of treated Houston water, loaded with native Texan fish and a couple of cranky Jack Dempseys. All the gear, filters, pumps, water polishers, heaters, treaters, all of it. Has to go. My ex-Utah Mormon drinking buddy down the road expresses interest. I basically let him have it gratis on the one condition he takes everything, fish included. He has to keep the fish alive and happy their entire lives. I’ve raised some from minnows and have grown attached to a couple of the gaspergou and a certain smallmouth bass with those big brown eyes… Digger, my stalwart mechanic, is going to purchase my truck. It’s a bittersweet parting, but at least I know it’ll have a great home. Digger is going to use it as both his personal truck and his company’s hot-shot vehicle for pick-up and delivery of everything from batteries to full drivetrains. I know the vehicle will be in good hands. Our Land Rover is up for grabs. Few are interested, though; buyer’s market. It’s a couple of years old and has lots of miles, due to Houston being so stupid-big. I order an extra-large bottle of AstroGlide as I know I’m going to be taking it up the ass on this one… Finally, our pets. Reluctantly, I’ve agreed to take the cat. It’s a stupid little feline that I figure we can just toss in a suitcase and drag it with us overseas. No, I guess we’ll get a cat-carrier and figure it out with the airlines. Then there’s Lady. 135 kilos of dopey puppy. She’s getting up in years, as well, especially for a giant breed. Luckily, overseas we’ll be living on a Western compound. So if we go through all the rigmarole of quarantine, getting her a ‘pet passport’, and shipping via a specialist service, Lady can bark at the tenets of pre-Islam (dogs really aren’t haram), and actually join us in our new home. This is going to cost a fortune, but I don’t care. She’s an integral part of the family, she is going to join us. I find a Pet Relocation Service and begin the masses of insane paperwork. It’s an ‘all-in’ service, basically door-to-door. But do not be deluded, they charge every micrometer of the way. Vaccinations, chipping (she already was fitted with an RFID chip), booking, boarding, securing vet services, obtaining health certificates, securing import permits, dealing with all issues related to customs clearance, interacting with foreign agents, supplying IATA approved crates, and obtaining Municipality tags registration for new arrivals. Gonna cost me a couple-three-four kilobucks. Worth every penny. Esme, the kids and I are working on beginning packing, tossing this, wrapping that, sentimentalizing over the other thing when we get a ring at the door. It’s a bonded courier. He has a package for me. It’s of the size that would contain about 6-months’ worth of Playboy magazines, and has no external address. I sign for the thing and walk back to the kitchen. “What you got there, Rock?” Es asks. “Not sure,” I reply, “But it came via bonded courier.” “Well, open it,” Es smiles. She loves surprises. I do so and it’s a series of articles, re-prints, and other information regarding Nevada, mine closures, and the Mine Closure Act. There’s also a number of newspaper and magazine clippings that had been photo-copied into a dozen-page document. All of them, write-ups and reviews from different newspapers, house organs, and journals citing my work with the guys out in the field. I open it further and there’s a personal note from Dr. Sam Muleshoe, and a certified check, made out in my name. Seems I was correct. After exhausting their leads with Al, Leo, and Chuck, they have spent near a month trying to find someone to take over the project. “To fill my shoes,” as Dr. Sam Muleshoe notes. They came up totally empty. “Told ya’ so.” I gloated. Esme smiles a wide schadenfreude-fueled smile. I look at the check. It’s plenty healthy, but not superhero strength. I show Es and she laughs out loud. “So,” Es whoops, “They think they can get back in your good graces by buying you off? Hah! Fat chance,” she says and regards the check, “Hell. They’re not even close.” I agree with Esme passionately. I write a quick, hand-scribbled note to Dr. Muleshoe, thanking him for the information. I give several options, some admittedly anatomically impossible, regarding what he can do with the check and the Bureau’s offer. I wrap it back up with duct-tape, call the courier service, and return it to Reno, COD. A couple of days later, I receive a phone call. Surprise, surprise, it’s from Reno. “Rock, it’s Reno!,” Es tells me. I shake my head “no!” slicing my hand through the air in the head-chop mime. “Tell him I’ve gone bush in darkest Outer Albania and you have no idea when I’ll be back,” I say. Esme looks a bit sheepish, as we can hear the phone remark: “I can hear you, you know.” “Fuckbuckets,” I think, “OK, hand me the rap-rod.” “Yeah?” I growl, very grizzly-like into the infernal communication device. “Hello, Rock. This is Sam Muleshoe,” the phone reports. “Damn,” I exclaim, “I guess you characters can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Which word fucking confused you?” “Rock, what’s the god damned deal?,” Sam asks innocently, “Why all the bloody hostility?” “Oh, double-fuck me!” I say metaphorically, “Don’t act like you don’t know. Try and snake the latest field mine closing job out from under me and try to snag my guys. Then, when that fails, give some sort of bullshit report to Rack and Ruin. You think I’m ‘too cavalier’, too “wild and wooly’, and think I’m some goddamned 19th-century throwback that loves horrible Hawaiian shirts…” “Doc?,” Sam asks, “Are you currently fucking drunk? What the actual fuck are you rabbeting on about?” “Sam, I’m stone-cold fucking sober,” I reply, “Yeah. I know, that’s a first. But listen here Scooter. You must have balls of brass trying to sweet-talk me into running another field course after all you did…” “Rock,” Sam pleads, “Please, believe me, I have no idea what you’re on about. Can we talk and maybe figure this thing out?” “No!,” I holler, “I’m done talking with the likes of your Bureau. Nothing you can do or say to rebuild the bridges they’ve burned with me.” “OK,” he says, “Doct…, err, Rock, buddy. Calm your tits. Give me the Reader’s Digest version. I’ll look into it, because I have absolutely no idea what this is all about. This really sounds serious, with fuck-up overtones. Trust me, I’m serious as the last cold can of beer on a field trip.” “Marvelous.” I say, “I guess I owe you that much. Professional courtesy. At least one of us has the grit to employ some.” So, I run through the tale of the travails of Al, Chuck, and Leo. Then my little difference of opinion with Agents Rack, Ruin, and the Agency. Plus my severing of ties with both that Agency out on the east coast and the Bureaus in the great American Southwest. “Doctor,” Sam says intently, “I know it’s going to be difficult, but I swear on a box of your finest cigars with a vodka chaser that I didn’t know anything about all this nor did it come from this office. Por favor señor, let me do some digging. I’ll be back in touch.” “Sam,” I say, thinking over the situation, “Yeah…I must apologize for my previous outbursts. I should have known you’re not behind this idiocy. Yeah, go do some fossicking. Let me know what you dig up. Again, sorry. I was a bit…animated.” “Rock,” Sam chuckles, “Do you think that I’d dare anger someone like you? You must think I’ve got a serious case of cranial lithification to cheese-off the Motherfucking Pro from Dover!” At this point, I knew that Sam was also only collateral damage; he too was caught in the crossfire. Ground zero for the original attacks lie elsewhere within the Bureau. Esme and I go back to preparing for our trip coming up in 2 months. But Jesus Q. Christwagons, there’s so much to do. Everything you own; it gets packed, stored, or trashed. It’s the decisions that get so tiring. Keep. Toss. Sell. Burn. Leave on someone’s doorstep. I propose to Es that we just do the basic necessities. Then we hire some firm to finish up for us. It’d be worth the cost since just think what we’d be saving on aspirin and Ace Bandages. Esme readily backs the idea that we should turn the job over to someone else. Plus in the interim, we can take a trip back home to Baja Canada so the kids could visit their grandparents, we visit our family, and all of us could cool out a bit before the big trip east. I need to drop by Big Ray’s Tap for a few hours/days anyways. Old commitments. We’d go the beginning of our last month here in the States, spend a couple of weeks visiting family at home, leave the kids with the grandparents to get spoiled rotten. Es and I would return to Houston to finalize everything. Then Es and I would fly from Houston to that damn sprawling annoyance of an airport on the big lake in Illinoise. The family would meet us there, handover the kids, and we’d all haul ass eastwards to the Middle East. I readily agreed. Anything has to be better than dealing with this crapola. Lady and the stupid cat would go to the pet schleppers a little early. Sure, it’d cost a few more dinars, but that’s one big headache sorted. So, late one afternoon, I’m sitting in my office, trying to figure out exactly what reference works I couldn’t live without. Compton’s? Save. Field Guide to Fungus? Toss. No, wait a minute. Could prove useful. That’s why this is taking forever. The phone rings. It’s Sam. “Hello, Sam,” I say, “What news?” “Goddamn it all to fucking hell and back,” Sam roars. “That’s a unique greeting,” I reply. “I finally drilled down to the bottom of all this horseshit.,” Sam replies, “And it’s a real bowl of fuck all the way south.” “I’m listening,” I say, “Actually, Sam, hold on. I need a drink. Moment.” I give Es the high sign, note it’s Sam on the phone, and that I’ll be in my office if she hears any screaming. I amp up my drink and return to my office, closing the door behind me. Lady is here, waiting to keep my feet warm. “OK Sam, your nickel,” I say, “What’s the scoop?” “Would you believe?,” he begins, “That all batshittery this came from accounting and bookkeeping?” “Well,” I reply, “I’ll have to admit that I’m not overly surprised.” “Yeah,” Sam continues, “I was off on holiday. My first two weeks off after 5 years. My very temporary replacement received a memo from the head of the Bureau that there was great interest in you leading a shortened version of your last trip to demonstrate to a bunch of different university PhDs in the care and feeding of abandoned mines. Seems the Bureau Chief was very impressed with what you and your team accomplished.” “OK,” I reply, “With you so far. So, where did things get wrapped around a tractor’s nuts?” “Right,” he replies, “Here’s where things first went off the rails. Whoever vetted the list of potential attendees sorted the list alphabetically, not by field of expertise. Of course, the obvious first choice would be for geologists; especially those with mining, field, and blasting experience.” “Ah,” I replied, “No wonder it was such a miscellaneous bunch of baloney-loaf whole-grain enviro-types that Al had mentioned.” “Yep,” Sam agreed, “But before anyone with any brains got sight of that list, some fucknuts in the Bureau’s University Liaison department sent out invitations.” “Invitations?” I asked, “To what?” “That’s just the thing,” Sam continued, “They sent out invites to a program that didn’t yet exist, run by someone who had yet to be contacted, much less secured.” “Oh, hey! That’s some good work you guys do down there.” I snort. “Indeed,” Sam agrees, “So once that hit the mail, we started getting back replies and acceptances.” “And there was no project, no leader, no logistics…?” I asked. “No shit,” Sam scoffs. “So, what did these idiots here do? Contact the attendees and explain the problem. Take a little flack, but get it sorted out then try again?” “Let me guess,” I said, “No?” “Nope,” Sam sighs, “By that time, it was in the works and in the hands of accountants.” “Oh, fuck,” I commiserated. “I feel your pain.” “Yeah,” Sam continues, “They see that you’re the hookin’ bull on the last one and they dig into your contract. They figure, ‘Whoa, he’s way too expensive, just look at these expense accounts’, so they do an end-around and contact your colleagues.” “Al, Chuck, and Leo. They’re damn good guys,” I said, “Fine field scientists, all. But I don’t think any of them have the moxie or experience yet to run a whole field course.” “These accounting shitheads never bothered to find out,” Sam groans, “It was all ‘bottom line’, so you got caught in the squeeze.” “OK,” I reply, “I see how that happened, but what about all the shit about me being a 19th-century throwback, that I’m unsafe, wear horrible Hawaiian shirts, and all that shit?” “Comedy of bloody errors,” Sam says, “Actually, the Bureau Chief likes your fashion sense; you should see some of his shirts. But your slime campaign was based on unreliable evidence, tall tales, folklore, and outright fabrications. It was easy to pimp someone with a personality like yours, it’s been said. Someone was trying desperately to cover his ass. However, we have identified the perpetrator.” “Next time I’m in Reno,” I said, “I’ll pay him a friendly little visit and arrange his transport to Neptune. One way. Y’know, it’d be easy for someone with a ‘personality like mine’.” “Ah, yeah. He won’t be here,” Sam says, “In fact, we don’t know where the hell he went. He was immediately sacked, as were a couple of the more boneheaded accountants.” “That’s redundant,” I smirk, “They really don’t want to talk with or see me anytime soon.” “Right, then Rock,” Sam says, “We green again?” “Yeah, Sam,” I reply, “Sure. Green as a New Saigon. But you’ve got to call Rack and Ruin for me. You have to let them know how this whole clusterfuck came to be. We had some words a while back.” “Oh, yeah,” Sam remembers, “I talked with them the other day. They said they’ll be in Houston in a couple of days.” “Cor! Just what I fucking need right now,” I lament. “Ah, it is what it is.” “OK, Rock. Now, back to reality. You interested?” Sam asks. “Send me a JD (job description) and the project particulars. The price of poker’s really going up this time, Sam. Stratospheric. Sorry, it’s all just business.” I relate. “Yeah…,” Sam sighs, “I figure we’ll really owe you if you can drag our ass out of the campfire on this one.” “You have no idea,” I chuckle. We exchange farewells and ring off. Now I have some talking to do with my significant other. Since we were all set to go back to Baja Canada, I could use those two weeks to go to Nevada, if necessary. I can be back in Houston with Es for the last two weeks before we’re slated to travel, and we can sort out the house. “This won’t be an easy sell,” I muse, before chatting with my darling, brilliant, and ever-so-forgiving partner. “I’ll need a drink first”, I declare. Esme notes that it would be nice to have a little spare cash with us when we move overseas. You could have dropped me with a Claymore. Es never fails to flummox me. So, provisional OK from the powers that be. Now all I have to do is wait on Sam’s prospectus. The next day, the doorbell rings. It’s Agents Rack and Ruin. One is holding a box of very expensive cigars, and one is holding a bottle of very expensive bourbon. I turn to Es and remark, “Look here, darlin’. Geeks bearing gifts.” “Hello, Doctor,” Rack says, bristling, “We need to talk. “ “Why?” I ask, “I do seem to recall that I’m no longer associated with you people any longer.” “Doctor,” Agent Ruin cocks his head contritely, bowing ever so slightly, “May we please have a moment of your time?” I look to Es. She shrugs her shoulders. Luckily I’m partial to Es’ opinion. I am also partial to good bourbon and cigars, especially when someone else is paying for them. So I shrug my shoulders as well and tell them to make entry. “My office, “ I say, “You know the way. Mind the boxes.” Once in my office, the Agents stack their offerings and go on in great detail, basically collaborating Sam’s story. I remain steadfast and stony as the Harney Peak Granite of Mr. Rushmore fame. I’m not giving anything away any longer. “Well, Doctor,” Agent Ruin finalizes, “That’s the story, warts and all.” “Yep, it is pretty warty,” I agree, “So?” “We would like to rekindle our relationship,” Agent Rack reports, “These are for starters.” He hands me the cigars and booze; plus another box. “Thanks,” I say, “But just because I accept your peace offerings, that doesn’t mean we’re going to turn back the clock.” “What are you suggesting?” Agent Ruin asks. “No more consulting,” I reply, “I want in. The ‘Full Monty’, as it were. If I’m going overseas and work for some twitchy Middle Eastern sandpit’s national oil company, I want perks, tabs, and my ass duly covered.” “Work two full-time jobs simultaneously?” Agent Rack asks. “However you want to structure it,” I say, “No more consulting. From here on out, you want me, you’re making me a full-fledged full-timer.” Agents Rack and Ruin look at each other, enquiringly. “Doctor,” Agent Rack replies, “We are prepared to offer you an ad hoc Agency appointment. You will be fully attached but you will be also doing your full-time job in the other country.” “I’m listening. Tell me more,” I ask, “What exactly are you offering?” “Full access to all pertinent information,” Agent Ruin continues, “Full entrée to appropriate facilities and, um, assets. Security for you and your family in case of, well, shall; we say, ‘difficulties’. Monthly minimum payment of [$$$] to any non-US bank of your choice. Extra duties would be duly compensated. Top clearances. An enhanced potential payment package, bonus possibilities, and full benefits for you.” “Full benefits for me and my family,” I say, “Or there’s the door. Non-negotiable” I point out. “Very well. That had been anticipated.” Agent Rack replies. “Gentlemen,” I say, “Let us shake on what I hope turns out to be a beautiful relationship.” We shake hands and I sign my life away. I’m really in it now, up to my neck. I have to learn to shut up more and just listen. “Now, gents,” I say, “In order to seal the deal, let us break out the drinking stuff you’ve brought along. We will also smoke together so that we will know there will be no lies or deceit between us.” “Also anticipated, Doctor,” both agents agree. My ‘new’ old colleagues prepare to leave a while later, after a cigar, and far too much of what was a full bottle of expensive gift booze. They always get you in the end. Contained within the other small box were my new Agency credentials, updated version satellite phone, secure codes, and a nifty new Swiss Army Knife, with a built-in cigar cutter. With renewed dedication and expectations all ‘round, Agents Rack and Ruin take their leave. They hope to be able to meet me and the family, remember, they are Uncles Rack and Ruin, overseas one day in the not too distant future. My information, further updated cards, registration, and all that official business guff will come to the specific Middle Eastern country’s US Embassy for me once we arrive and get settled. “Marvelous,” I muse. I receive an Email from Dr. Muleshoe explaining what we talked about and his hopes for my stickhandling a ‘quick’ 2-week field excursion for the approximately 15 Ph.D. types from around North America. Seems there’s a couple of Canadians and one Mexican professor that expressed desires to join. They had actually forwarded funds to be included in our number. Sam suggests I drive out in my truck and proceed as per the last trip. Get the trailer, fill it with noisemakers, and the Bureau would sort out transportation and lodging for the attendees. Seems some want to camp, like real geologists, and some want to lodge in hotels, like real non-geologists. I write Sam back: First item: this is a 2-week sojourn into the desert. It’s a field meeting, emphasis on the field, not a tour of Nevada’s many fine hotels, resorts, and casinos. Item two: I no longer possess my truck. The Bureau will provide me with the appropriate vehicular equivalent. No passengers, this will be the Camp Chief truck from the onset. Besides, I am the only one licensed to drive the vehicle when coupled to an explosives-laden trailer. Item three: I will be flown to and from Reno from Houston. No buses, trains, or automobiles. It’s business class or zilch. Item the fourth: the Bureau will source the necessary support logisticians to provide food, drink, and toilet paper for the 16 professionals while we are in the field. They will also need to provide cooks, dishwashers, camp tidiers, and the like as I don’t have time to deal with 15 potentially field-fresh, whiny waterhead PhDs. Item the fifth: The Bureau will provide for all pre- and post-trip handling of participants. They can handle hotel rooms for the early arrivers or late-stayers. They can manage arrivals, registration, signing of necessary documents, and assuring vaccination records are up to snuff, waivers are signed, etc. They will also handle the transportation of participants to/from and during the field project, when and where necessary. Item the sixth: I include a new version of my contract. Force Majeure, ‘Take or Pay’ clause. Door to door coverage. Plus my, ahem, augmented day rate. Absolutely non-negotiable. Item seven: I have final say over what is done in the field. I am in command, the boss, the head cheese, the head honcho, and I require absolute discipline, especially where explosives are concerned. “My way or the highway” will be the theme of the trip. Gain, non-negotiable. To be continued.
[FIGHT PREVIEWS] Bermane Stiverne vs Chris Arreola, Amnat Ruenroeng vs Kazuto Ioka, Donnie Nietes vs Moises Fuentes + more
Wednesday May 7
From Bodymaker Colosseum, Osaka, Japan
Amnat Ruenroeng 12(5)-0 vs Kazuto Ioka 14(9)-0
12 rounds IBF flyweight title In Ioka’s first venture into the deep waters of the flyweight division, he will set his sights on the perceived weakest link. Ruenroeng upset Rocky Fuentes back in January to capture the vacant IBF title. Ruenroeng has a deep amateur career that includes a loss to Zou Shiming in his final amateur tournament that he participated in. The flyweight division (and the smaller weight classes in general) are unforgiving with age. Often times, guys get old overnight and seemingly insignificant stay busy fights could end your career. Just ask Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, longtime champion at flyweight. By the way, let’s go on a tangent. Let’s trace the lineal flyweight title. Sonny Boy Jaro, a notorious journeyman who will knock out some prospect or champion every so often, was the one to finish Wonjongkam and take the elder wand-I mean the lineal championship. Jaro then went to Japan to face Toshiyuki Igarashi. Igarashi was a tough little prospect who’d suffered a loss early in his career, but many at the lower weight classes do. He seemed on his way. He wins a split decision over Jaro (which is shocking.) Then he defends it against Argentine Nestor Narvaes. Igarashi then defends against Akira Yaegashi. Yaegashi beats the breaks off of him in a fight of the year contender. Now, Yaegashi is the current lineal champion at flyweight. A direct decendent of the great Wonjongkam. (Seriously, if you don’t know about how great Wonjongkam is, google him. This guy was a real throwback to champions of the past.) Okay… so uh this fight has really nothing to do with that other than Ioka and Ruenroeng fight in the same division and are fighting for a paper title. Let’s go over styles. In studying Ruenroeng, what we have with him is a very good boxer who relies on his jab (which he throws more like a power jab) and footwork to stay outside. He doesn’t pack a big punch and he doesn’t move his head as much as he should. If there’s a vulnerability or a way for Ioka to beat him, there’s 2 ways I see. One being that Ruenroeng is often open for a wide left hook. When he throws his power jab, he drops his right hand and finds himself squared up. Fuentes tagged him with it multiple times in their fight. I think combined with Ioka’s body punching, this could be his ultimate end. As for Ioka, in my opinion, he’s coming in as the favorite. Ioka’s got a win over Yaegashi in his 10th pro fight (now it all comes together!) and improves with every fight. Here’s what’s always impressed me about Ioka and I use to gauge how ready prospects are. I look at what I call actions per minute. It’s the pace at which they fight and what they do with their time in the ring. Fighters who compete at the highest level, their rounds go by quick. Watch a Pacquiao fight. When he’s fighting a Marquez or a Bradley, the rounds fly by. Why is that? Because they are constantly working. They are feinting, they’re moving not just to move, but to position themselves, and they’re setting traps or taking mental pictures. This is why I thought Pacquiao-Marquez IV was the better fight than Rios-Alvarado I. Most of what was happening in the Rios fight was punches from everywhere. There wasn’t that high speed chess that was present in the Pacquiao fight. I love the tension it creates. Ioka has shown he can fight at that pace since he was green. Ioka’s style is tough to pin down. He’s a boxer-puncher, but he’s also prone to counter-punch. Ioka doesn’t move his head much and that’s led him into some real exciting contests over the course of his relatively short career, his chin and ring IQ have kept him in a lot of fights he might have otherwise been stopped in.
Katsunari Takayama 26(10)-6 vs Shin Ono 17(2)-5-2
12 rounds IBF minimumweight title Takayama is already 30 and that’s not a good sign in the minimumweight division. To stay at such a low weight as you get older is draining and takes a lot out of you. Takayama has had an up and down career, but he’s only been stopped once. Of the following opponents who’ve beat him, guess which one stopped him: Nkosinathi Joyi, Mateo Handig, Masato Hatakeyama, or Roman Gonzalez. Which do you choose? Yep, obviously it’s… wait a second. Are you sure? It’s not El Chocolatito? The, and I mean all capital letters, THE baby Golovkin? The baddest little dude on the planet? Afraid not, reader. Gonzalez easily out-pointed him, but didn’t stop him. That honor goes to Hatakeyama. It was over 10 years ago at junior flyweight. Takayama has since moved down and fared well as a minimumweight. Ono is simply a domestic defense. His 2 knockouts are impressive to Cesar Rene Cuenca, but no one else. Barring some Sonny Boy Jaro shenanigans, Takayama will retain and maybe have a unification with Naoya Inoue. (I think this is not possible because Japanese promoters have their own cold war going on.)
Friday May 9
From Gran Canaria Arena, Las Palmas, Islas Canarias, Spain
Ceferino Rodriguez 15(9)-0 v Ismael El Massoudi 39(14)-7
12 rounds EBU-EU welterweight title I don’t want to say that El Massoudi is better than his record states, but he kind of is. Let’s get this out the way first, because I can’t focus. His nickname is Desert Storm. Lol. He’s from Morocco so I guess it works. Anyway, why is this here? Because Ceferino Rodriguez is a 25 year old Spanish welterweight prospect promoted by none other than Sergio Martinez. I think Martinez has an eye for talent. Say what you will about Pablo Sarmiento, Sergio’s trainer, but he did a good job with Kiko Martinez and if he’s doing the same work with Rodriguez, we could have a terrific prospect coming our way in the near future.
Gabriel Campillo 22(9)-6-1 vs Ricky Dennis Pow 11(8)-2-1
10 rounds cruiserweight division Campillo moves up from light heavyweight after losing to Andrzej Fonfara last summer. My opinion on Campillo is that if this guy had any power, he’d be pretty special. He doesn’t and thus, he will only go as far as his cleverness takes him. From Dover Downs Hotel and Casino, Dover, Delaware
Ray Robinson 17(7)-2 vs George Sosa 13(13)-7
10 rounds welterweight division First, The New Ray Robinson is rated at worst in the top 20 of welterweights in the world. Chew on that for a while. Second, I feel it’s my duty to remind you any time he fights. Which is pretty often.
Saturday May 10
From SM Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City, Metro Manilla, Philippines
Donnie Nietes 32(18)-1-4 vs Moises Fuentes 19(10)-1-1
12 rounds WBO light flyweight title This is a rematch of their first encounter a little over a year go. Nietes hasn’t lost in 10 years while Fuentes lost a couple of years ago to a Mexican fighter who failed to make weight. I don’t like when guys have a ton of draws on their record. It tells me that they’re okay to simply match their opponent in exchanges and not do enough to stand out. Obviously you don’t get to 32 wins by doing that every time, but those guys are alarming to me. Their last contest was as even as it gets and I expect Nietes to get the win this time.
Milan Melindo 30(12)-1 vs Martin Tecuapetla 11(8)-5-2
12 rounds flyweight division Melindo’s skill level is far about his opponent. He fought one hell of a fight against Juan Francisco Estrada last summer in Macau. Estrada easily won the fight, but Melindo impressed me with his heart and determination. Melindo is young and I think in a couple of fights he can capture one of the belts at flyweight. If Yaegashi doesn’t scoop them all up. From Olympia, Liverpool, Merseyside, UK
Martin Gethin 24(11)-4-1 vs Derry Mathews 34(19)-9-2
I think this is it for dirty Derry. Win or lose, I think he’s taking his spoils and calling it a day. Dirty Derry has done a fine job putting on entertaining fights, but it seems like his career has been plagued by 1 step forward and 2 steps back syndrome.
Chris Eubank Jr 14(9)-0 vs Robert Swierzbinsky 13(3)-2
8 rounds middleweight division I guess Frank Warren is going to take it easy on his prospects after his last card. From Ponds Forge Arena, Sheffield, Yorkshire, UK
Kid Galahad 16(8)-0 vs Fed Mundraby 15(7)-1-1
12 rounds super bantamweight division I haven’t made up my mind about Galahad yet.
Hughie Fury 13(8)-0 vs Danny Hughes 12(3)-2-2
unknown rounds cheeseburger division From Galen Center, Los Angeles, California TV: ESPN (USA)
Bermane Stiverne 23(20)-1-1 vs Chris Arreola 36(31)-3
12 rounds vacant WBC heavyweight title Let’s address one thing here. This is being billed as a heavyweight title match. Let’s be clear. This should be called something like The American Heavyweight championship. Or Championship of the Americas for heavy people. Or maybe The No-Klitschko Heavyweight Division Championship. Everyone can call out Wladimir and say they want to fight him, but until otherwise proven, there isn’t a single heavyweight out there that’s on his level. One attribute doesn’t put you there. Wilder’s power, Arreola’s determination, heart, and chin, Stiverne’s jab, Pulev’s whatever he does that keeps him winning, maybe if we added all that up into one person, we’ll throw them in the mix. But that’s not the case. So essentially, this title will be the title for the rest of aren’t gifted with a shot at the real champion. Arreola is a slight underdog here and it makes sense to me. Stiverne dropped him in their first fight and thoroughly controlled the fight with his jab and movement. Stiverne has an advantage in the quickness department, as well. The wildcard in this fight is Arreola’s new fitness. He’s in shape like never before and that could be the difference. Whether it affects his ability to throw a punch or take one. Arreola is going to need to add a new wrinkle to his game, and that is to add some feints. Arreola is really good at cutting off the ring and trapping guys in the corner, the problem with Stiverne is that he has a tight guard and when he’s shelled up, Arreola isn’t landing anything flush. A good counter to that would also be to rip some body shots when he’s in the corner. Making Stiverne weary of a body shot will open him up for some bombs to the face. All in all, both guys are promising fireworks and you can’t ask for a better heavyweight fight for network TV. I’m excited for this fight and I expect this to be a great fight.
Amir Imam 13(12)-0 vs Yardenis Ugas 15(7)-2
8 rounds junior welterweight division
Eric Molina 20(14)-2 vs DaVarryl Williamson 27(23)-7
America’s 11 Most Interesting Mayors by POLITICO MAGAZINE via POLITICO - TOP Stories URL: http://ift.tt/2sa0c1J At a time when one yellow-haired, Twitter-happy personality dominates American discourse, it’s easy to forget how much political energy—and important new thinking—emanates not from the nation’s capital but from city hall. We surveyed dozens of national and local political junkies, and came up with 11 leaders who are compelling for the fights they are waging, their personal backstories and how they are transforming their cities, often without Washington. Plus: Seven more to watch. Eric Garcetti | Los Angeles, California The mayor who would be president By Edward-Isaac Dovere Back in 1984, when he was mayor of San Antonio and a rising star in the Democratic Party, Henry Cisneros got a final-round interview to be Walter Mondale’s presidential running mate. Mondale decided against it: It was a little too much for a local official to make the leap right onto the national stage. It’s early still, but many top Democrats have started assuming Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will skip that step entirely and run for president himself in 2020. Garcetti has helped fan that speculation, already talking to strategists and big donors about the prospect. And it helps that, as cities step up their resistance to President Donald Trump, Garcetti has been able to jump into the national debate on issues like immigration, health care and infrastructure. “My main job, and my overwhelming job, starts with my family, my street, my neighborhood and my city,” Garcetti told Politico’s Off Message podcast in May. “But I’m playing too much defense in my backyard to not get involved in the national discussion.” If Garcetti runs for president, he wouldn’t just make history as a rare sitting mayor to do so. He also has the potential to be the first Hispanic and the first Jewish president. Garcetti is the 46-year-old grandson of an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, and the son of a former L.A. district attorney—Gil Garcetti, of O.J. Simpson trial fame—and a mother whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia. The mayor can order his bagel and lox, which he loves, in fluent Spanish. He was also a Rhodes Scholar and a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, and likes to tell stories about the time in high school when he traveled to Ethiopia to deliver medical supplies. As mayor, Garcetti has successfully pushed for tax increases to fund a mass transit plan and more housing for the homeless, and he won a second term this year with 81 percent of the vote. His big project over the next few months is landing the Olympic Games in 2024 or 2028. The choice is expected in September, and Garcetti is putting off any decision about his political future until after that. There’s an open governor’s race in California next year, but people close to Garcetti don’t think that’s where his heart is, especially if he can go straight to a White House run. There’s also the chance of an open Senate seat if Dianne Feinstein retires, but that job doesn’t seem to fit Garcetti’s personality or his experience being the man in charge. In the meantime, the mayor is firing back hard at Trump, at appearances all over the country, telling people to channel their rage into action—even if he’s also taking a cue from Trump’s “outsider” playbook. Gone are “the old rules of who can run and who should be president or vice president—and that reflects the American people’s desires,” Garcetti says. “They’re not looking for résumé-builders. They’re not looking for a set pathway or a set demographic or a set caricature. They want to go with their gut about somebody who they think has the guts to shake it up.” Edward-Isaac Dovere is chief Washington correspondent atPolitico. Hillary Schieve | Reno, Nevada The re-inventor By Megan Messerly Tucked in the desert just east of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Reno is best known for its casinos, lax divorce laws and “Reno 911!” But these days it’s also becoming a hub for tech entrepreneurs and companies, pulling coders and data analysts from far more expensive Silicon Valley four hours to the west. The woman now at the center of this transformation is Hillary Schieve, a 46-year-old political outsider who has her own remarkable transformation story. As a teenager, she was a figure skater elite enough to train with an Olympic-level coach. But she struggled for years before discovering that the fatigue she experienced was brought on by a serious kidney disease. Two years after a transplant—her sister was the donor—Schieve, then 27, was working in the Bay Area when her mother suffered a massive brain aneurysm and fell into a coma. Schieve put her life on hold again, moving home to Reno to care for her mother and become the family’s breadwinner. She had briefly attended Arizona State University, but never returned to college. After working a few different jobs, the former figure skater without a college degree reinvented herself in 2007 as a small-business owner, opening a secondhand clothing store serving teenagers in a rundown part of the city. That’s where Schieve’s transformation story meets Reno’s. She shot a low-budget commercial to promote the area and lobbied the city to recognize it as a distinct district, now known as Midtown. Today, Midtown is a bustling center with wine bars, breweries, gastropubs and shops. Schieve never pictured herself in politics. But her personal setbacks gave her a powerful sense of gratitude—“It makes you connect better with others, and I think it’s important really to honestly have a lot of compassion in your life,” she says now—and her work in Midtown convinced her that small-business interests needed a voice on the City Council. In 2014, after two years as a council member, she entered, and won, Reno’s first competitive mayoral race in more than a decade. As mayor, Schieve hasn’t been immune to challenges. Even as Reno’s economy has boomed and the city’s population has grown by some 20,000 since 2010, it has struggled to promote affordable housing and mental health services, or to fight homelessness—issues Schieve says she is trying to address. In an age of intense partisanship, however, she stands out not just for her up-by-the-bootstraps MO, but because she’s a registered nonpartisan in a purple state, fiscally conservative and socially liberal. A wall in her office is covered in chalkboard material with a to-do list that ranges from cleaning up the blighted downtown to bringing back a gay rodeo that started in Reno in the 1970s. “Everyone likes the taste of beer, right?” Schieve says. “So don’t tell me we can’t find something in common.” Megan Messerly is a political reporter at the Nevada Independent. Kevin Faulconer | San Diego, California The modern GOP executive By Ethan Epstein Of America’s 10 largest cities, only one has a Republican chief executive: San Diego, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer is straddling ideological and partisan lines to surprisingly popular effect. Faulconer became mayor in this border city of 1.4 million during troubled times, after a sexual harassment scandal ousted Democrat Bob Filner. A pension scheme for city employees was also bleeding the budget dry, leading to cutbacks in basic services like library hours and funding for beaches and parks. A city council member at the time, Faulconer campaigned in English and Spanish, pledging to right the city’s financial ship, and easily won a special election. He has made good on that pledge as mayor, pushing a high-profile legal case that let the city switch new municipal hires from its costly pension system to a 401(k)-style retirement plan. Library hours have been restored, too. Faulconer has struggled at times with the Democratic city council, which overrode his veto of a bill to raise the minimum wage and provide private-sector workers with guaranteed paid sick days. But given San Diego’s Democratic majority, it’s not surprising that Faulconer, 50, has bucked his own party on several major issues. He speaks often of the city’s integration with its neighbor to the south, saying he views San Diego-Tijuana as “one megaregion,” and pledging that local police officers will not be used to enforce federal immigration laws. He also backed a 2015 plan to curtail San Diego’s emissions, and he has flown a gay pride flag at City Hall. “He approaches things from a pragmatic point of view and doesn’t publicly project his ideology,” says James R. Riffel, a longtime San Diego journalist. For the most part, Faulconer’s policies have proved popular—he was reelected easily last year—perhaps because, unlike many national Republicans, he tries to eschew ideological labels. He’s quick to say he’s not a liberal. “Fiscal responsibility is a core Republican value,” he points out. But he has no qualms admitting that his conservatism differs from that of the national GOP—not to mention a certain denizen of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. “San Diego is not Washington, D.C., and I’ve done what I can to keep it that way,” Faulconer says. “My approach has always been to keep partisan politics out of governing and focus on what matters most: protecting taxpayers and getting things done for our residents.” Ethan Epstein is associate editor at the Weekly Standard. Greg Fischer | Louisville, Kentucky The data geek By Katelyn Fossett At a 2013 conference in San Francisco, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced a new policy in which all his city’s records would be publicly available by default, and delivered a line that married the folksy simplicity of a political slogan with the message of a numbers geek: “It’s data, man.” Fast-forward nearly four years, and Fischer has carved out just that reputation, defining his tenure in Louisville with high-tech and open-data initiatives that have cut costs and improved public health, as the city has added tens of thousands of jobs. In 2011, shortly after taking office, he named a city “innovation czar.” One result: a partnership with a company that vacuums up data from individual asthma inhalers so health agencies know what really triggers attacks. Fischer also launched LouieStat, a metrics system that in 2012 helped identify problems across municipal agencies—like the cause of 300 monthly inaccuracies in the fingerprinting process at city jails. It was improper staff training, not anything as tricky as software, and after the training was revamped, the number of inaccuracies came down to just 10 in following years. Fischer, 59, is a Democrat, but in a deep-red state his track record fulfills the most fashionable of Republican beliefs: that a businessman, even with virtually no political experience, can deliver common-sense reforms. A Louisville native, he invented a beverage and ice dispenser and ran the company that made it; later, he started a private investment firm and Louisville’s first business accelerator. His previous life in politics was a single Senate primary, which he lost. Fischer, who peppers his speech with corporate-sounding phrases like “de-optimizing potential,” entered politics with the same goal he had in business—to “serve as a platform for human potential to flourish.” Although he recognizes that business skills don’t always translate to politics, at a time of sky-high institutional distrust of government, he believes that cities are the best ticket toward earning back public trust, particularly with the help of data and crowd-sourcing. “It emphasizes to people we’re all interconnected,” Fischer says. Katelyn Fossett is associate editor atPolitico Magazine. Marty Walsh | Boston, Massachusetts The union hall progressive By Lauren Dezenski Even his fans would concede that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh isn’t usually the most dynamic speaker. But his anger was on full display at a news conference in January. Flanked by dozens of city officials and aides, Walsh railed against Donald Trump’s new travel ban and anti-immigrant rhetoric as “a direct attack on Boston’s people.” Then, he went a step further, offering to house inside City Hall any undocumented immigrants who felt vulnerable. The picture was striking: A white, blue-collar former union leader from Dorchester, the image of the Irish old guard in a city with troubled race relations, taking one of the most progressive stances on immigration—and making one of the fiercest critiques of the president—of any mayor in the country. “It was personal,” Walsh, the child of Irish immigrants, said in a recent interview. “I have the opportunity to speak up, to speak against someone. I’m not afraid, and I don’t like bullies.” A recovering alcoholic and survivor of childhood cancer, Walsh, 50, has always bridged two worlds: the hard-bitten and socially conservative landscape of Boston’s longtime white residents, and contemporary progressive Massachusetts politics. He got his start as the head of a local labor union—one his uncle had run, and for which Walsh had hauled building materials for two years. As a state representative, he was an early advocate for marriage equality. As mayor, an office he has held since 2014, Walsh recently hoisted the transgender flag over Boston’s City Hall Plaza as an anti-transgender “free speech bus” rolled into town. Walsh admits that “to see a mayor from a blue-collar neighborhood [supporting] transgender rights, progressive policies—it’s a bit of a disconnect.” When he has spoken to union members about social issues, he says, “Sometimes people would look at me [like] I’m crazy.” And for those who object, he says: “What frustrates me about working-class people is: Why focus on social issues, why not just focus on work-rights issues? Be more concerned about your benefits and your health care and pension.” Conventional wisdom says Walsh will coast to a second term in November—no incumbent mayor in Boston has lost reelection since 1949. But while he remains tight-lipped about higher aspirations, he rejects the “mayor-for-life” approach of his five-term predecessor, raising questions about his future. Last year, Walsh traveled the country supporting Hillary Clinton, and rumors swirled that he could be tapped for a labor role in Washington. But Walsh now says that he wouldn’t have accepted the job before finishing out his first term as mayor. As for the current president, Walsh says that day to day, “I really don’t make big decisions based on Trump.” But he takes seriously the chance to stand up for Boston: “I’ll continue to do that as long as I’m mayor of the city, or whatever position I have. I did it as a state rep, I did it as a labor leader, I did it as a Little League coach, before I was into any of this stuff.” Lauren Dezenski is aPoliticoreporter in Boston and author of Massachusetts Playbook. Michael Hancock | Denver, Colorado The cool-headed change agent By Caleb Hannan The day after Donald Trump was elected president, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock did something he almost never does: He left work early. He had stumped for Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama before her, and was so shocked by Trump’s win that he left shortly after lunch, only the second time he had done so in more than five years in office. “I had to breathe a little bit and collect my thoughts,” he recalled recently. Hancock hasn’t skipped a day since. Coming to grips with the shock of a Trump presidency didn’t take him long, a calm response befitting a low-key leader who has moved beyond his turbulent past and faces daily the growing pains associated with a boom city. Being mayor has been Hancock’s dream ever since he decided, at age 15, that he wanted to be the first African American to lead Denver, whose population is only about 10 percent black. (Wellington Webb would beat him to that goal in the 1990s.) And Hancock’s path was far from clear. He had the kind of childhood that can be an asset only after it has been overcome: an alcoholic father; a brother who died of AIDS; a sister who was murdered by a domestic abuser. Before getting to the mayor’s office, Hancock spent a season as the Broncos’ then-mascot, “Huddles,” two terms as a City Council member, and then defeated the son of a former governor in his first mayor’s race in 2011. When he ran again four years later, he was virtually unopposed. Perhaps because Hancock, 47, already has his dream job—he’s begun raising money for a second reelection campaign—he wields his powerful personal story with some subtlety. This spring, he created a new office designed to improve affordable housing options for low-income residents without dwelling on the fact that he and his nine siblings were often homeless. That deft touch has come in handy as Denver has navigated hot-button issues like marijuana legalization. Hancock opposed the amendment that made weed legal in Colorado but worked hard to smooth the transition once voters overruled him. Because of its progressive stances on a number of issues, Denver also holds, perhaps even more so than other cities, the potential for conflict with the Trump administration. But Hancock has navigated the new national politics with his signature understatement. A week after the election, he posted a two-minute video on his YouTube page meant to reassure Denver residents, but never mentioned Trump’s name. Then, when the president issued an executive order threatening to withhold federal funds for so-called sanctuary cities, Hancock once again reacted without being reactionary. His response was to spend months lobbying to change local laws, rather than making confrontational speeches. And this spring, in a move that earned applause from the Denver Post, Hancock signed a series of sentencing reforms that reduce penalties for low-level violations in the city—minor crimes that in the past would have set off alarms at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and possibly resulted in deportation. “It’s easy to be emotional ... and to do things because it looks good politically,” Hancock says. “But if you’re not doing things that are going to protect and help your residents, then what’s the point?” Caleb Hannan is a writer in Denver. Jennifer Roberts | Charlotte, North Carolina The embattled activist By Greg Lacour If there’s an embodiment of a mayor whose political challenges have taken on national import, it’s Jennifer Roberts. The Charlotte mayor, a Democrat, flashed onto the national radar by facing down the Republican state legislature over House Bill 2, the 2016 state law that overturned a city ordinance protecting gay and transgender people. On September 19, having rejected a proposed deal to repeal the ordinance in exchange for possible repeal of HB2, Roberts walked into a City Council meeting to a powerful round of applause from members of the local LGBTQ community. One week later, she returned to the chamber for another council meeting and faced a crowd with a very different message. “Shut your goddamn mouth.” “You should not be in office at all.” “Fuck all y’all.” The speakers were members of Charlotte’s black community, infuriated and terrified after the fatal police shooting of Keith Scott, a black man, on September 20. Roberts seemed at a loss. The night after the Scott shooting, she waited until a riot at the center of the city had left a man dead before signing a state of emergency proclamation that allowed the governor to send in the National Guard. She urged patience with the investigation, then wrote an op-ed criticizing the police department for not immediately releasing footage of the incident. A former diplomat, Roberts, 57, was elected in 2015 with broad backing among disparate constituencies. But her ironclad support for the nondiscrimination ordinance and missteps after the Scott shooting have turned her, improbably, into a polarizing figure as she seeks reelection this year. She is struggling to manage HB2’s economic damage and a hostile legislature that blames her for it, and a perception among some in the black community that she will work for their votes but not their well-being. Roberts has two challengers in this year’s Democratic mayoral primary, both of whom are African-American, and in May, the local Black Political Caucus endorsed placed her in a distant third in an internal caucus vote—although a poll in late June showed her leading both of her primary challengers. “Mayor Roberts does not have a consistent application of attentiveness with the African-American community and the Black Political Caucus like she does with the LGBTQ community,” says caucus Chair Colette Forrest. “We as African Americans have not seen that consistency on our issues, such as housing, crime and safety, economic development and transportation.” Roberts says, with justification, that she has urged city action on all of those issues. But many Charlotteans, she says, fail to grasp how little formal power she has as mayor, since the city council sets policy in Charlotte and the city manager handles day-to-day operations. “I can’t really legislate or govern,” Roberts says—which puts all the more pressure on what she says and how she acts in the face of both local and state-level opposition. “I don’t really think of myself as a politician. I’m an advocate,” Roberts says. “The civil rights movement needed white people. The LGBT community needs straight people. I want to be there when people are fighting for equality.” Greg Lacour is a writer in Charlotte and contributing editor at Charlotte Magazine. Tomás Regalado | Miami, Florida The Republican resister By Marc Caputo The Argentinian real estate investor had a question that Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado hated hearing. “I’m investing in Miami. But I want to ask you if I should be concerned that I would never be able to go. … All these Trump laws could impede me and my family.” This was one of the mayor’s fears during the 2016 election—that Donald Trump’s rhetoric could spook the foreign investors who are essential to Miami’s booming economy. Miami is both a big U.S. city and Latin America’s northernmost metropolis, and keeping its status as the latter requires Regalado to calm the nerves of jittery investors up and down the hemisphere. Few major U.S. cities have as many reasons to fret about a Trump presidency. It’s not just that Miami has one of the country’s highest proportions of foreign-born residents and relies heavily on foreign investment. It is also among the cities most threatened by rising sea levels, at a time when Trump has labeled climate change a hoax and is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. That means that, at age 70, Regalado has fashioned himself as one of the most caustic voices of the so-called anti-Trump “resistance,” and from within the president’s own party—both men are Republicans. For Regalado, opposition to Trump is almost personal. He was born overseas, in Cuba, one of the last of the old-school anti-Castro exiles who helped turn Miami into a Spanish-language mecca more culturally attuned to Havana than Fort Lauderdale. And he empathizes with the flood of immigrants and refugees, particularly from Latin America and the Caribbean, who populate Miami’s metropolitan area. At 14, Regalado was one of 14,000 Cuban children spirited off the island and settled in the United States without their parents. His father, a lawyer and journalist, was jailed by Fidel Castro for two decades. Regalado went into journalism too, starting out in radio and local TV, before covering the White House. He traveled the world and says he was among the last foreign reporters to interview Egyptian strongman Anwar Sadat. In 1996, he parlayed his name ID into his first political bid, on the city commission, and won the first of his two mayoral terms in 2009. (His daughter is now a congressional candidate in Florida; one of his sons is running for city commission.) Despite his calm demeanor, Regalado grows animated when discussing Trump. The administration, for instance, recently extended temporary protective status to more than 58,000 Haitians who fled the country’s 2010 earthquake—but only for six more months. “These are good people, hard-working people,” Regalado says. “Now we have this guy saying, ‘Get your things in order. You might go back.’ What the hell? What ‘things’?” In the end, he says, it’s hard not to see racial overtones in Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies. “It reminded me of when I was a kid, and the others would tell me, ‘Spic, go home,’” he said during the campaign. “I never responded to that. But I was like, ‘Fuck this. This is my country.’” Marc Caputo is aPoliticosenior reporter in Miami and author of Florida Playbook. Jackie Biskupski | Salt Lake City, Utah The pioneer in Mormon country By Erick Trickey Her parents in Minnesota named her after Jacqueline Kennedy. But Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski didn’t turn to politics until she witnessed Utah’s 1990s anti-gay backlash. “When I first moved here, I was a ski bum and a bartender,” Biskupski recalled in an interview earlier this year. Then the Utah legislature tried to stamp out a local high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. That convinced Biskupski to run for office as an out lesbian. “By hiding, you were legitimizing the discrimination,” she says. In 1998, Biskupski was elected as Utah’s first openly gay state legislator. If it shocks people outside Utah that Salt Lake City would have a lesbian mayor, given the state’s streak of Mormon-influenced social conservatism, it’s a source of pride to residents of the capital city, who favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 4-to-1 and haven’t elected a Republican mayor since the 1970s. Today, Biskupski, 51, governs from Salt Lake City’s towering Romanesque City Hall, built in the 1890s as a secular counterpoint to the Mormon Church’s Salt Lake Temple. During her statehouse years, Biskupski waged a near-constant battle against anti-gay legislation. She was sworn in as mayor in 2016 with her fiancée, now wife, by her side. But while her identity helped her get elected as a progressive, it hasn’t been much help with governing: Biskupski is struggling to deliver on difficult goals such as better homeless services and affordable housing. Salt Lake City’s growing homeless problem, fueled by the opioid epidemic and a housing shortage, has roiled local politics. A thriving drug trade has grown around The Road Home, the city’s main downtown homeless shelter, near a revitalizing neighborhood and the Rio Grande train station. In her first year as mayor, Biskupski joined with the county sheriff to launch a crackdown on drug crime near the shelter that offered the addicted a choice: jail or treatment. About half of the defendants who chose treatment have stayed with it, early results show. But a controversy over where to move the city’s homeless services has hurt Biskupski. She came to office as the community agreed to replace The Road Home with smaller homeless centers. Under Utah law, the job of finding the sites fell to the mayor. After a year of study, Biskupski chose four sites, and not-in-my-backyard opposition broke out, especially in the middle-class Sugar House neighborhood. Forced to back down in February, Biskupski, the City Council and the county government cut the number of centers from four to three, moved one of the remaining ones outside the city and set 2019 as the deadline to close The Road Home. Critics say the mayor’s decisions weren’t transparent and were sprung on the public. Biskupski says she tried to avoid a divisive debate and find a fair way to distribute the homeless centers around the city. “We did not want to pit neighborhoods against neighborhoods,” is how she often puts it. In February, Biskupski delivered her long-awaited affordable housing plan, “Growing SLC.” She proposed requiring developments to include affordable units, changing city zoning to allow denser development in neighborhoods full of single-family homes, and buying hotels and apartment buildings to remake them as affordable housing complexes. Her ideas got a positive reception from the City Council and local advocates, though some are pushing for quicker progress. Biskupski calls her plan “bold but equitable.” That’s a good summary of how she would like to be seen herself. Erick Trickey is a writer in Boston. Bill Peduto | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania The Rust Belt rebrander By Blake Hounshell When a Nashville Predators fan was arrested for throwing a dead catfish on the ice during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals in May, a home game for the Penguins, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded with a barrage of fish puns. “This has turned into a whale of a story,” he wrote in a news release. “We shouldn’t be baited into interfering with this fish tale, but if the charges eventually make their way to a judge I hope the predatory catfish hurler who got the hook last night is simply sentenced to community service, perhaps cleaning fish at Wholey’s.” It was vintage Peduto, and not just because of the goofy humor: The affable Democratic mayor has a knack for inserting himself into every story about Pittsburgh, a prideful city that has aggressively rebranded itself as a metropolis of the future during his three-year tenure. A self-described “student of cities” who rose to local prominence by championing a bohemian mix of indie art galleries and urban tech centers, Peduto, 52, represents the global aspirations of a city shaking off its smoky past. There’s no better example of his media savvy than when Peduto seized on President Donald Trump’s speech announcing his decision to withdraw from a 2015 global climate agreement. No sooner had the president said the words, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” than the mayor was pointing out on his lively Twitter feed that in fact, 80 percent of Pittsburghers had voted for Hillary Clinton. He followed it up with a media blitz positioning Pittsburgh as a leader in green technology, and co-bylined a New York Timesop-ed with the mayor of Paris calling on cities to fight climate change. The flurry of positive press was good for Pittsburgh—and also good for Peduto, who has told friends he has wider ambitions. But he has kept them mostly to himself, just as he did in high school, when for months he hid from his strict, academic-minded parents that he had been elected student council president. “They loved the fact,” he later explained, “but didn’t understand why I wanted to do things like that.” Blake Hounshell is editor-in-chief ofPolitico Magazine. Dan Gilbert* | Detroit, Michigan The shadow mayor By Nancy Kaffer Walk the streets of downtown Detroit, and Dan Gilbert is everywhere. The headquarters of his online mortgage firm, Quicken Loans, looms over the park at downtown Detroit’s center—thronged with Gilbert’s employees, eating at restaurants in Gilbert-owned buildings, traveling to Midtown on the QLine, a light rail line championed and partially funded by Gilbert, all under the watchful eye of a network of security guards and cameras installed and paid for by Gilbert. Gilbert, 55, is not actually the mayor of Detroit, and in most of the city’s sprawling 140-odd square miles, his influence is negligible. But in the city’s now-thriving downtown—Gilbertville, some call it—this billionaire businessman wields the kind of power and boasts a résumé of civic accomplishment that most politicians could only dream of. At a time of dire need for Detroit, what he has done is remarkable. But for some Detroiters, that doesn’t sit well: Because Gilbert isn’t an elected official, he has no public accountability. In many ways, Detroit was ripe for Gilbert’s intervention. It had lost nearly two-thirds of its population since 1950; during the recession, it watched the implosion of the administration of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, now serving time on federal corruption charges. The city declared bankruptcy in 2013. Gilbert grew up just outside Detroit and originally built his mortgage empire in the suburbs. He announced the move downtown in 2007, hoping it would be “transformational,” and city and state officials applauded him. Quicken moved downtown in 2010. Today Gilbert owns more than 95 buildings there, and 4,000 of his workers have flooded the area. Many have also bought homes in Detroit with down-payment assistance offered by Quicken and other businesses. (Separately, the Justice Department is suing Quicken for improper underwriting of hundreds of Federal Housing Authority-insured mortgages during and after the recession. Gilbert vigorously denies those claims; he was not available for an interview for this article.) Dozens of businesses have opened to serve the influx of workers. But not everyone is convinced what’s best for Gilbert is what’s best for the city. His security force, for example, isn’t required to release the same data as public police departments. And while Gilbert has brought thousands of workers downtown, they’re mostly suburban white transplants. The majority-black neighborhoods where most Detroiters live still languish. “It’s the feeling of, ‘Is it still our city? Are we still included?’” says Keith Owens of the Michigan Chronicle, a newspaper that serves Detroit’s African-American community. Detroit has a real mayor, of course—Mike Duggan, elected in 2013 as the city’s first white executive since 1974—who has partnered with Gilbert on some projects. Duggan is perhaps more attuned to the contours of the city. The mayor—who has demolished thousands of blighted houses, among other initiatives—has ensured that razed land gets community input as it is redeveloped. (His press secretary did not respond to a request for comment about Gilbert’s work downtown.) Unlike Duggan’s, Gilbert’s job isn’t intrinsically tied to the city of Detroit, since Quicken is an online business. And that has prompted questions about what would happen if the billionaire—who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers and has other investments in the Ohio city—ever left Detroit. “That’s been my biggest worry about Detroit’s momentum,” says Tom Walsh, a retired Detroit Free Press business columnist who covered Gilbert for more than a decade, “that it has relied on a small group of people.” Nancy Kaffer is a political columnist and member of the editorial board at the Detroit Free Press.
Happy Father’s Day -- JAY SEKULOW: Trump is not under investigation -- Scalise update -- WHITE HOUSE week ahead -- KNOWING MARK CORALLO – SCHUMER’s first big test -- WEEKEND READS – RODAY/MARRE wedding pool report
Happy Father’s Day -- JAY SEKULOW: Trump is not under investigation -- Scalise update -- WHITE HOUSE week ahead -- KNOWING MARK CORALLO – SCHUMER’s first big test -- WEEKEND READS – RODAY/MARRE wedding pool report by [email protected] (Daniel Lippman) via POLITICO - TOP Stories URL: http://ift.tt/2soWHWP Good Sunday morning. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! SPEAKER PAUL RYAN discusses what he’s learning as a father as his kids approach their teenage years. http://bit.ly/2rJIO3F FIRST IN PLAYBOOK -- Speaker Paul Ryan spent the weekend at the Homestead in Virginia for his annual “Team Ryan” summer outing. His message to K Streeters and donors: the Republican agenda is on track. The Wisconsin Republican laid out his preferred timeline for Obamacare repeal bill, saying that it will be done by mid-summer and tax reform will be completed by the end of the year. Ryan said that he expected the Senate to pass their health care bill before the July 4 recess and that would give House Republicans the rest of July to take action. Ryan said he has been talking to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell daily. Ryan also was bullish on infrastructure, telling the group that a series of infrastructure bills will be passed by the end of the year. SPOTTED: Chris Russell, Bob Wood, Chris Giblin, David Tamasi, Richard Hunt, Ray Berman, Ed Kutler and Nicole Gustafson. STATEMENTS FROM PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP FROM CAMP DAVID -- @realDonaldTrump at 6:38 a.m.: “The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm,..” … at 6:46 a.m.: “...massive regulation cuts, 36 new legislative bills signed, great new S.C.Justice, and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Tax Cuts in works!” …at 7:02 a.m.: “The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating.That’s higher than O’s #’s!” -- @kylegriffin1: “For reference (spot the outlier): Gallup 38 … Economist/YouGov 42 … Reuters/Ipsos 40 … PPP 41 … Quinnipiac 34 … Rasmussen 50” TAKE NOTE: Trump had just one surrogate on the Sunday shows: a member of his legal team. Not one Cabinet secretary or adviser talking about policy or politics. SUNDAY BEST, PART I -- JAY SEKULOW tells CHUCK TODD on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS” that the president isn’t under investigation -- TODD: “The president tweeted earlier this week, ‘I am being investigated for firing the F.B.I. director by the man who told me to fire the F.B.I. director. Witch hunt.’ So let me start with this. When did the president become aware that he was officially under investigation by the special counsel?” SEKULOW: “The president is not under investigation by the special counsel. The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources that were purportedly leaking information to The Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president. But the president, as James Comey said in his testimony and as we know as of today, the president has not been and is not under investigation.” -- MARCO RUBIO to JAKE TAPPER on CNN’s “STATE OF THE UNION” -- TAPPER: “Some of your Senate colleagues, as you know, are concerned that President Trump is preparing to fire Mueller or Mueller and Rosenstein. How would you react if he did?” RUBIO: “Well, first of all, that’s not going to happen. I don’t believe it’s going to happen. And here’s what I would say. The best thing that could happen for the president, and the country, is a full and credible investigation. I really, truly believe that. If we want to put all this behind us, let’s find out what happened, let’s put it out there, and let’s not undermine the credibility of the investigation. And so my view on it is that’s the best thing that could happen for the president and for the country, and I believe ultimately that’s what will happen, irrespective of all the other stuff that’s going on out there.” -- SEKULOW GETS TESTY under sharp questioning from Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday": "I do not appreciate you putting words in my mouth, when I've been crystal clear that the president is not and has not been under investigation." SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PRESIDENT’S WEEK -- MONDAY: Trump has Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and his wife to the White House. He will participate in an American Technology Council roundtable at 5 p.m. WEDNESDAY: The president is going to Iowa. THURSDAY: The Congressional picnic. THE BIG SUNDAY READ -- NYT, A1 -- “How Michael Flynn’s Disdain for Limits Led to a Legal Quagmire,” by Nick Confessore, Matt Rosenberg and Danny Hakim: “Mr. Flynn decided that the military’s loss would be his gain: He would parlay his contacts, his disdain for conventional bureaucracy, and his intelligence career battling Al Qaeda into a lucrative business advising cybersecurity firms and other government contractors. Over the next two years he would sign on as a consultant to nearly two dozen companies, while carving out a niche as a sought-after author and speaker -- and ultimately becoming a top adviser to President Trump. “‘I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit,’ Mr. Flynn said in an interview in October 2015. In the military, he added, ‘I learned that following the way you’re supposed to do things isn’t always the way to accomplish a task.’ But instead of lofting him into the upper ranks of Beltway bandits, where some other top soldiers have landed, his foray into consulting has become a legal and political quagmire, driven by the same disdain for boundaries that once propelled his rise in the military.” http://nyti.ms/2sDrCkx SCALISE UPDATE -- “Hospital says Scalise showing ‘signs of improvement’ after additional surgery,” by Rebecca Morin: “[House] Majority Whip Steve Scalise is showing ‘signs of improvement’ and is ‘speaking with his loved ones’ following an additional surgery, according to an update provided by MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Saturday. The hospital also downgraded his condition from critical to serious. “‘Congressman Steve Scalise is in serious condition. He underwent another surgery today, but continues to show signs of improvement,’ according to a statement from the hospital, courtesy of the Scalise family. ‘He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones. The Scalise family greatly appreciates the outpouring of thoughts and prayers.’” http://politi.co/2tBoHG5 -- TEAM SCALISE’s video from Thursday’s Congressional baseball game http://bit.ly/2rsXeGe FROM TYSON LOBBYIST MATT MIKA’S FAMILY: “We want to thank the team at George Washington University Hospital for their world-class care, and we continue to be grateful beyond words for the heroic actions of the U.S. Capitol Police this week. In addition, the positive thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement from across the nation have meant the world to Matt and to all of us. “Matt has undergone additional surgery and his physicians have reported positive results. Matt will remain in the ICU through at least this weekend. He continues to communicate with us through notes, and even signed the game ball for the Congressional Baseball Game. Matt especially valued the professionalism of the officers of the Capitol Police, and would appreciate contributions to the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, one of the designated charities at Thursday night’s ballgame. “While we know there will be difficult and challenging days ahead for Matt and our family, the physicians and specialists at Matt’s side expect a full recovery. This will be our final update pending Matt’s discharge from the hospital. We again ask for your understanding and respect of our family’s privacy.” FOR YOUR RADAR -- “Navy stops search for 7 missing sailors after bodies found,” by AP’s Mari Yamaguchi in Yokosuka, Japan: “The search for seven U.S. Navy sailors missing after their destroyer collided with a container ship off Japan was called off Sunday after several bodies were found in the ship’s flooded compartments, including sleeping quarters. Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, described the damage and flooding as extensive, including a big puncture under the waterline. The crew had to fight to keep the ship afloat, he said, and the ship’s captain is lucky to have survived.” http://apne.ws/2sGAXc0 BLAST FROM THE PAST -- KNOWING MARK CORALLO: “Meet the man managing Trump’s biggest crisis yet,” by Eliana Johnson, Josh Dawsey, and Josh Gerstein: “Veteran GOP operative Mark Corallo is known for accepting tough crisis-management cases, but even he wasn’t daredevil enough to accept the job an embattled President Trump considered him for last month: White House communications director. Instead, Corallo chose to stay outside the building, becoming the top spokesman for Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz. “In his new role, he finds himself handling the White House’s defense against independent counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the presidential election, which has expanded to include inquiry into whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation. Corallo had never met Trump or Kasowitz before taking the job but is now routinely in the West Wing several times a week, strategizing with a temperamental and media-obsessed president who sees himself as his own best spokesman. “‘I think I will be more help to the president on the outside than I would have been on the inside,’ Corallo told POLITICO.” With cameos from Karl Rove, David Ayres and Ed McFaddenhttp://politi.co/2seOZjF -- FLASHBACK: Corallo speaking to Isaac Dovere in May about Trump staff: “They’re hostages.” http://politi.co/2rKcOMS SCHUMER’S FIRST BIG TEST -- “Democrats to step up attacks on GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort,” by Burgess Everett: “Democratic senators are planning to hold the Senate floor until at least midnight on Monday to thrash Senate Republicans for refusing to hold committee hearings on their health-care overhaul, according to several people familiar with the plan. The round of speeches is being organized by Sens. Patty Murray of Washington state and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. “But on the more weighty question of whether to object to the GOP’s committee hearings or refusing to allow routine business in the Senate regarding nomination votes or uncontroversial matters, the party has made no final decision. While the party's liberal wing is demanding that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and his team shut the Senate down, Schumer has made no decision and often tries to forge consensus in his caucus before executing party strategy. “Though several sources on the party’s left believe Schumer may be open to the idea, Democratic leaders have been resistant to procedural obstruction thus far. They believe blocking unrelated matters could shift the spotlight from Republicans' secretive process to Democratic obstruction. And it could set expectations high among the party's base that Democrats can stop the repeal, when in reality if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has the votes the party will be powerless to stop him.” http://politi.co/2seOyWF -- IT’S WORTH NOTING: Since assuming the top Senate leadership job after the 2016 election, Schumer has made it his leadership style to govern by consensus. Depending on how the Obamacare repeal effort plays out, this could be test for how he’ll appease his frustrated left flank while not overplaying his hand. THE JUICE … -- Community Catalyst Action Fund is launching a seven-figure TV and radio ad buy targeting Republican senators in Alaska, Maine, Nevada and West Virginia on Obamacare repeal. The TV ads, produced by GMMB, will run for the next two weeks and feature a mother whose son has chronic asthma and requires frequent trips to the doctor. The radio ad, also produced by GMMB, and digital ad component are part of the “Keep Care at Home” campaign, which is focused on Medicaid cuts, and will also include events in each state. The TV adshttp://bit.ly/2tglz3j … The radio adhttp://bit.ly/2seKt4W THE LATEST IN GEORGIA -- TOO CLOSE TO CALL: “Georgia special election hurtles toward nail-biting finish,” by Steven Shepard: “As the most expensive House race in history rushes toward the finish line Tuesday, the latest public polls are unanimous: The Georgia special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is too close to call. The race for the suburban Atlanta seat, closely watched for clues about the shape of the 2018 midterm elections, appears to be within a few percentage points — with perhaps the slightest edge to Ossoff, the 30-year-old Democrat seeking to wrest away a traditionally Republican seat in the first major election of Donald Trump’s presidency. … The current state of play: Of the six public polls conducted in June, Ossoff leads in five of them — and hits the 50-percent mark in each of the five — with the fifth showing a tie.” http://politi.co/2rt57uY -- NYT's ALEX BURNS and JONATHAN MARTIN: "High-Stakes Referendum on Trump Takes Shape in a Georgia Special Election"http://nyti.ms/2rEqr50 SUNDAY BEST, PART II -- JOHN DICKERSON speaks to SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FLA.) on CBS’S FACE THE NATION -- DICKERSON: “The president has called the investigations a witch hunt. What’s your opinion of that?” RUBIO: “Well, I know he feels very strongly about it. My advice to the president is what I communicated publicly. The way I’ve tried to communicate to everyone on this issue. And that is this. It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation. If I were the president, I would be welcoming this investigation. I would ask that it be thorough and completed expeditiously and be very cooperative with it. That’s what ultimately I anticipate they will do. That’s in the best interest of the president. I really believe that. I think it’s in the best interest of our country that we have a full-scale investigation that looks at everything so that we can move forward.” DICKERSON: “So regardless of what you may think about James Comey’s firing as FBI director, you think it should be investigated?” RUBIO: “Well, I just think it’s important to answer questions. Because otherwise, if people have any doubts, it undermines confidence in our system of government, in our elections, in our leaders. As I said, the best thing that can happen for the president and for America is that we have a full-scale investigation that is credible, that it reaches its conclusion one way or the other so that we can move on. But at the same time be knowledgeable. We have to know everything the Russians did and how they did it so that we can prevent this from happening in the future.” RUBIO talks with CHUCK TODD on NBC’s “MEET THE PRESS” -- TODD: “The more the administration tries to soften the sanctions in the House, at any point, do you understand, if some people see that as circumstantial evidence in this probe?” RUBIO: “I could understand how some people would make that argument. I could also tell you though that I personally believe that at the core of the resistance is not the president. And I don’t think the president himself has a problem with additional sanctions on Russia. I think the concern actually comes from the State Department and for the following reason: they argue that they are trying to get the Russians to be more cooperative on a number of fronts and that this could set us back. It's a legitimate argument, I’ve thought about it, I don't agree with it. And you saw the majority of my colleagues didn’t agree with it this week.” POWER PLAYBOOKER – DAVID PETRAEUS to PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff on why Americans should support staying engaged in Afghanistan: “This is a generational struggle. This is not something that is going to be won in a few years. We’re not going to take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade. We need to be there for the long haul but in a way that’s sustainable. You know we’ve been in Korea for 65-plus years because there’s an important national interest for that. We were in Europe for a very long period of time, still there of course, and actually with a renewed emphasis given Russia’s aggressive actions.” Videohttp://bit.ly/2rF21IN THE BIG QUESTION AHEAD OF TRUMP’S TECH SUMMIT -- “CEOs Have Access to Trump, but Do They Have Clout?,” by WSJ’s Vanessa Fuhrmans and Peter Nicholas: “When tech industry executives gather at the White House Monday, brainstorming ways to modernize government will be on the agenda. But on display will be President Donald Trump’s evolving relationship with America’s corporate chieftains. Some 300 business leaders have met with Mr. Trump since he took office promising the nation’s top executives a direct line to the Oval Office and a chance to shape economic policy. “The discussions have helped the president project an image of CEO-in-chief as he awaits a major legislative victory and have given CEOs a voice in initiatives like the administration’s push to expand apprenticeship programs. But corporate leaders are learning about the limits of their clout. Hopes for an overhaul of the corporate-tax code this year are fading, some executives and corporate lobbyists say, as the White House and lawmakers struggle to reach consensus on a plan that could get through Congress. Mr. Trump’s move to quit the Paris climate accord has been a stinging lesson for some that White House face time doesn’t always translate into influence.” http://on.wsj.com/2rEUp8V WHAT K STREET IS READING -- “Republicans debating remedies for corporate tax avoidance,” by Reuters’ David Morgan: “President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Congress will soon confront a complex challenge for tax reform: how to limit U.S. corporate tax avoidance schemes that take advantage of low tax rates in foreign countries. Congressional and administration staff have begun to examine options to address profit-shifting schemes that include so-called transfer pricing, earnings stripping and tax inversions. A decision on how to handle these in tax legislation could come before Congress leaves town for its one-week July 4 recess on June 29, officials and lobbyists said.” http://reut.rs/2seHWaU WAPO’S ABBY PHILLIP -- “Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke rescinds acceptance of Homeland Security post”: “‘Late Friday, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. formally notified Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly that he had rescinded his acceptance of the agency’s offer to join DHS as an assistant secretary,’ said Craig Peterson, an adviser to Clarke. ‘Sheriff Clarke is 100 percent committed to the success of President Trump and believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role.’” http://wapo.st/2sDJaNA MORE ON MEGYN KELLY -- “Unedited Putin Interview Reveals A Missed Opportunity For Megyn Kelly and America,” by Yashar Ali in HuffPost: “As Megyn Kelly and NBC News face a firestorm over her interview with InfoWars’ Alex Jones, unedited footage from her recent interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin shows a nervous Kelly who asked the authoritarian leader softball questions and failed to hold him accountable on key topics. Most troubling, Kelly devoted precious time in her short interview to a question that led one former CIA Russia analyst to say that it sounded as if Putin had written the question himself. “In the full, unedited discussion, obtained by HuffPost, Kelly repeatedly fails to interrupt the Russian president while he rambles in his responses. She also asks Putin questions he can easily dispute. The last question Kelly asked Putin, which was not aired, was startling in its pandering. ‘We have been here in St. Petersburg for about a week now. And virtually every person we have met on the street says what they respect about you is they feel that you have returned dignity to Russia, that you’ve returned Russia to a place of respect. You’ve been in the leadership of this country for 17 years now. Has it taken any sort of personal toll on you?’” http://bit.ly/2rsxPwo MEDIAWATCH -- “The Danger of Ignoring Alex Jones,” by Charles J. Skyes in the NYT: “When Mr. Jones was merely a marginal figure on the paranoid right, the case could plausibly be made that he was better left in obscurity. But now that, at least according to Mr. Jones, the president of the United States has praised him and thanked him for the role he played in his election victory, it’s too late to make that argument. We can’t keep ignoring the fringe. We have to expose it.” http://nyti.ms/2rsZ61q … Charlie Sykes is an MSNBC contributor TV TONIGHT -- MSNBC will air a special edition of “The Point with Ari Melber” at 5 p.m. for the 45th anniversary of the Watergate break in. The show features Tom Brokaw, Dick Cavett, former Watergate special prosecutors and never-before-seen documents from the Justice Department’s Watergate Special Prosecution Force. BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman: --“Young Men Are Playing Video Games Instead of Getting Jobs. That's OK. (For Now),” by Peter Suderman in Reason in the July 2017: “A military shooter might offer a simulation of being a crack special forces soldier. A racing game might simulate learning to handle a performance sports car. It’s a simulation of being an expert. It’s a way to fulfil a fantasy. That fantasy is one of work, purpose, and social and professional success.” http://bit.ly/2twpXdC --“Can Democrats Fix the Party?” by Rolling Stone’s Tim Dickinson: “Trump’s victory exposed the party establishment as utterly broken – now Dems hope to rebuild in time for a 2018 comeback.” http://rol.st/2rAh2eF --“What Makes a Glass House the Ideal Home for a Communist Gynecologist,” by Cody Delistraty in JStor: “The windows in the waiting area are high, allowing light to enter, but also arranged so that infertile women waiting for the doctor weren’t forced to see the Dalsace children playing in the backyard.” http://bit.ly/2syDZhU --“The Ideal Iceland May Only Exist in Your Mind,” by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Afar magazine: “But you can, and should, still go in search of it.” http://bit.ly/2tBnmzi --“Vatican tailors, cobblers try to adapt to Francis’s ‘papal athleisure,’” by Claire Giangravè in Cruxnow: “Pope Francis’s emphasis on simplicity and frugality is a hit all around the world, but it’s produced just a bit of backlash among fashion-conscious Italians, including an exclusive club of tailors and shoemakers who outfit pontiffs -- some of whom are a little nostalgic for the days when being pope also meant dressing to the nines.” http://bit.ly/2sBCccz --“The Fake Hermit,” by Natalia Portinari in piaui: “Thomas [Pynchon] was very thin and very handsome, like a Romeo kind of guy. He was like an Italian lover, very, very sexy. He wasn’t interested in money. He had a very dry sense of humor, so that’s why we got along so well. He never hurt my feelings. He tried to be a hippie, but it wasn’t easy for him. He was a hard worker.” http://bit.ly/2roGnnU --“What Duck Sex Reveals about Human Nature,” by Johann Grolle in Der Spiegel: “Copulation in most birds is achieved by a cloacal kiss, just an apposition of orifices. This is the essential reason why birds are so beautiful. Since they have the freedom of choice, females exhibit aesthetic preferences. And, as a result of these preferences, males developed amazingly elaborate ornaments.” http://bit.ly/2sC9W9A --“How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico,” by ProPublica’s Ginger Thompson, co-published in NatGeo: “There’s no missing the signs that something unspeakable happened. Entire blocks lie in ruins. In March 2011 gunmen from the Zetas cartel swept through like a flash flood, demolishing homes and businesses and kidnapping and killing dozens, possibly hundreds, of men, women and children. The destruction and disappearances went on in fits and starts for weeks.” http://bit.ly/2sHUo43 --“If Israel were smart,” by Sara Roy on Gaza in the London Review of Books: “[A]lmost half the labour force [do not] any means to earn a living. Unemployment – especially youth unemployment – is the defining feature of life. It now hovers around 42 per cent (it has been higher), but for young people (between the ages of 15 and 29) it stands at 60 per cent. Everyone is consumed by the need to find a job or some way of earning money. ‘Salaries control people’s minds,’ one resident said.” http://bit.ly/2roQAR5 --“Philip Roth’s Newark,” by Steven Malanga in City Journal: “The city at its peak and in its decline are the novelist’s two greatest characters.” http://bit.ly/2sa9tu0 (h/t ALDaily.com) --“‘A reckoning for our species’: the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene,” by Alex Blasdel in The Guardian: “Timothy Morton wants humanity to give up some of its core beliefs, from the fantasy that we can control the planet to the notion that we are ‘above’ other beings. His ideas might sound weird, but they’re catching on.” http://bit.ly/2rF51QB (h/t Longform.org) --“What It Would Really Take To Sink A Modern Aircraft Carrier,” by Robert Farley in Jalopnik: “Even a supersonic cruise missile can take twenty minutes to reach its target area at maximum range, and a carrier maneuvering at high speed can move ten miles in the same period of time. A massive aircraft carrier can move surprisingly fast for something weighing over 100,000 tons, with a top speed of more than 30 knots, or about 35 miles an hour, which is what you get when you go for nuclear power.” http://bit.ly/2roV3Dy --“After Oranges,” by Wyatt Williams in Oxford American, discussing “Oranges,” by John McPhee: “Fifty years later, Oranges reads as an agile survey of world history, a vivid period piece of changing American foodways, and an early classic by a master just beginning to find his form ... Today, no one is quite sure if Florida’s oranges will survive” http://bit.ly/2tbvwPw (h/t TheBrowser.com) WEEKEND WEDDINGS – Zack Roday, press secretary for Team Ryan, and Alleigh Marre, who does press for HHS, got married on Saturday with the ceremony and reception at Rust Manor House in Leesburg, Virginia. The bride came down the aisle to “At Last,” and the wedding was officiated by Zack’s childhood friend and Best Man Ben Horwitz. The couple met on Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign in Wisconsin. Picshttp://bit.ly/2sHijAK ... http://bit.ly/2rEL5Cb ... http://bit.ly/2sE16r1 --SPOTTED: Gov. Scott and Tonette Walker, Matt Gorman and Annie Clark, Jesse Hunt and Kim Kaiser, Ian and Elsie Prior, Chris and Andrea Grant, Jake Kastan, Kevin Seifert, Betsy Ankney, Eli Miller, Jason Heath, Alexandra Clark and Scott Dillie, Bryant Avondoglio and Ellie Krust. --“Cathryn Clüver, Tom Ashbrook”– N.Y. Times: “The bride, 41, is the founding executive director of the Future of Diplomacy Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. She graduated from Brown and received a master’s in European studies from the London School of Economics and a master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. ... The groom, 61, is the host of the NPR talk show ‘On Point,’ a daily program produced at WBUR in Boston. He graduated from Yale. He is the author of ‘The Leap,’ which chronicles his time as an internet entrepreneur, after a career as a journalist.” With pichttp://nyti.ms/2soxxYq – “Stephanie Sy, David Ariosto”: “Ms. Sy, 40, is a New York-based special on-air news correspondent for PBS and the host of Carnegie Council’s ‘Ethics Matter’ interview series, a public affairs program that is shown periodically on PBS. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. ... On June 26, Mr. Ariosto, 36, will begin working as a supervising producer of ‘All Things Considered,’ the NPR news program. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and received a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University. ... The couple met in June 2015, at Al Jazeera America, where the bride was a news anchor and the groom an on-air reporter.” With pichttp://nyti.ms/2sMcBgR --“Sara Randazzo, Christopher Kirkham”: “The bride, 31, is a legal reporter at The Wall Street Journal in Los Angeles. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. ... The groom, 33, is also a reporter at The Journal in Los Angeles, covering the casino and hotel industries. He graduated from Northwestern, where he also received his master’s degree in journalism. ... The couple were introduced through mutual friends in New York in November 2011.” With pichttp://nyti.ms/2seYvDG SPOTTED at the going-away party last night (with a live band) in DC for Paul Wood and Ruth Sherlock, who is leaving in two weeks to become NPR’s new Beirut correspondent (she was previously U.S. editor at The Telegraph): Susannah Cunningham, Merrit Kennedy, Susannah Wellford, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Emily Lenzner, Suzanne Kianpour, John Hudson, Nihal Krishan, Vivek Jain, Matt Rosenberg, Karoun Demirjian, Diaa Hadid, Athena Jones, Karen Attiah. BIRTHDAYS: Dina Powell ... WaPo’s Fred Barbash … Charlie Herman … Joanne Lipman, chief content officer at Gannett and editor in chief of USA Today … Niall Stanage, WH columnist at The Hill, is 43 ... David Wood (Mr. Beth Frerking), Pulitzer winner ... Kate Knudson ... Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) is 66 ... Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) is 68 ... Nick Johnston, editor at Axios, is 4-0 (h/t Bill McQuillen) … Megan Mitchell ... Bipartisan Senate alumni birthday: former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.) is 8-0 and former Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) is 67 ... David Drucker, senior political correspondent at Washington Examiner, is 46 ... Romney alum John Whitman, now press secretary for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ... HFA alum John McCarthy, COS for Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.), (h/ts Fran Holuba, Anastasia Dellaccio and Ben Chang) ... Millie Harmon Meyers, public affairs at the U.S. Mission to the UN (h/t Ben) ... Geri M. Joseph is 94 ... Kenneth Lipper is 76 ... Blair Effron is 55 (h/ts Jewish Insider) ... DOT alum Ajashu Thomas ... Clare Bresnahan, executive director of She Should Run (h/t Jill Bader) ... Politico Europe’s Blanca Renedo is 29 ... Kevin Landrigan, legendary New Hampshire political correspondent ... HFA and GSG alum Chris Allen ... Bob Scutari ... ... Will Kinzel, managing director of gov’t affairs at Delta ... Jennifer Carignan ... Politico’s Claire Okrongly and Shannon Rafferty ... LifeZette’s Jim Stinson (h/t Jon Conradi) ... BuzzFeed’s Mary Ann Georgantopoulos ... Bert Gomez, Univision’s SVP of federal and state gov’t relations... Tom Readmond ... Michael Van Der Galien ... former Hardballer Jeremy Bronson, now creator of “The Mayor,” airing this fall on ABC ... former CNNer Meryl Conant Governski, now an associate at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP ... Zach Wilkes … Jason Kello ... Daniel Epstein is 33 ... Levi Drake ... Max Stahl is 3-0 ... Lisa Barron ... AJ Goodman ... Ron Rosenblith ... Dick Mark ... Debbie Shore (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) ... country singer Blake Shelton is 41 (h/t Kurt Bardella) ... Sir Paul McCartney is 75 ... Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses) is 54 (h/ts AP)
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