Harry Potter and his ilk are cheapening the once-respected U.S. Postal Service's stamp program, according to Benjamin F. Bailar, a former postmaster general.
"The stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience," Bailar wrote in a letter to current Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. "To prostitute that goal in the pursuit of possibly illusory profits does not make sense to me."
Bailar's letter, obtained by The Washington Post, also acted as a resignation from the Citizens' Advisory Stamp Committee, an exclusive group of notable Americans that offer their advice on suitable faces and images to be used on postage stamps. Bailar, 80, is a well-known stamp collector whose resignation highlights "a rift within the stamp community over whether the cash-poor Postal Service should pursue commercial subjects... at the expense of traditional cultural images."
Committee members were reportedly especially miffed by last November's Harry Potter stamp series, on which they were not consulted beforehand.
"While (the stamps) may support a drive to 'sell the product' with abundance of pretty and popular culture subjects, the result is a program that lacks gravitas," Bailar's letter added.
Harry Potter, the boy wizard who must lead a life-or-death battle on which the world's fate rests, might argue that his seven-book series has some gravitas, but since he corresponds by owl, he probably hasn't even seen the offending stamps. Sarah Eberspacher
Have trumpets gone the way of typewriters, rotary phones, and brick-and-mortar movie rental stores? That was the opening question of the 8 a.m. hour Friday on Fox & Friends as Brian Kilmeade asked his co-hosts over the sounds of Jason Derulo's "Trumpets" whether "you can play the trumpet these days through the organ."
"You mean like push the button and you can hear the … ? I'm sure they have that on fancy keyboards," Ainsley Earhardt replied. An offended Steve Doocy jumped in to ask "why would you want to?" He suggested that if you want to hear trumpet noises, you should "just have somebody play the trumpet, hello!"
"It's hard to find a trumpet player," Kilmeade protested.
As ThinkProgress' Aaron Rupar points out on Twitter, the hosts don't appear aware that the "electronic keyboard was invented decades ago." Watch the amusing debate below. Jeva Lange
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 20, 2018
White House lawyer Ty Cobb confirmed to The Daily Beast on Friday that despite reports to the contrary, President Trump's legal team is still looking into the possibility of an interview between the president and the special counsel. The two parties were believed to be close to reaching an agreement over Trump speaking to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team when the FBI raided the home, hotel, and office of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
"The Cohen searches, while they have taken time away from discussions with regard to an interview, certainly have not brought those discussions to a halt," said Cobb. "They continue." Another of the president's lawyers, Jay Sekulow, also confirmed: "We continue our ongoing cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel."
Trump has reportedly been raring to sit down with the special counsel's team, although his allies fear he could say something that would potentially get him into legal trouble. Read why Bonnie Kristian says only a fool would voluntarily talk to Mueller here at The Week. Jeva Lange
The Kushner Cos. confirmed Thursday it received a federal grand jury subpoena for information related to its paperwork on rent-regulated tenants in its buildings in New York City, The Wall Street Journal reports. The subpoena came shortly after The Associated Press reported that the company, which is run by the family of President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, routinely filed false papers with the city claiming there were no rent-regulated tenants in the buildings, even though there were hundreds.
The Kushner Cos. issued a statement saying it has "nothing to hide and is cooperating fully with all legitimate requests for information, including this subpoena." Harold Maass
Trump was reportedly furious with Michael Flynn for making Vladimir Putin wait 6 days for a return call
Former FBI Director James Comey's contemporaneous memos of his conversations with President Trump, leaked by Congress on Thursday, less than an hour after the Justice Department handed them over to lawmakers, contain a lot of new details but only a few new revelations. One of those bits of news is that Trump reportedly expressed doubts about short-lived National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during their Jan. 28, 2017, dinner in the White House Green Room. Comey wrote:
[Trump] then went on to explain that he has serious reservations about Mike Flynn's judgment and illustrated with a story from that day in which the president apparently discovered during his toast to Teresa May that [redacted] had called four days ago. Apparently, as the president was toasting [British Prime Minister] May, he was explaining that she had been the first to call him after his inauguration and Flynn interrupted to say that [redacted] had called (first, apparently). It was then that the president learned of [redacted] call and he confronted Flynn about it (not clear whether that was in the moment or after the lunch with PM May). Flynn said the return call was scheduled for Saturday, which prompted a heated reply from the president that six days was not an appropriate period of time to return a call from the [redacted] of a country like [redacted]. ("This isn't [redacted] we are talking about.") He said that if he called [redacted] and didn't get a return call for six days he would be very upset. In telling the story, the president pointed his fingers at his head and said "the guy has serious judgment issues." [James Comey memos]
When Forbes launched the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans in 1982, Donald Trump made the cut at $100 million. He and his lawyer Roy Cohn complained to Forbes that $100 million was too small, Jonathan Greenberg, an investigative journalist who interviewed Trump for the issue, recounts in The Washington Post, but decades later, he learned that "Trump was actually worth roughly $5 million" and "should not have been on the first three Forbes 400 lists at all." In 1984, when Trump was pushing to be labeled a billionaire, Greenberg got a call from "John Barron," who assured Greenberg that Trump owned virtually all of his father Fred's real estate assets.
We now know that "John Barron" was Trump's alter-ego — and that Trump is still obsessed with his Forbes ranking — and Greenberg writes that when he recently rediscovered the tapes, "I was amazed that I didn't see through the ruse." In fact, according to Fred Trump's will, he retained 100 percent ownership of his residential empire until his death in 1999. And instead of the 25,000 residential units Donald Trump claimed his family owned, valued at $20,000-$40,000 each, there were 8,000 to 10,000 units, each worth about $9,000, Greenberg said. He added that this deceit mattered:
I was a determined 25-year-old reporter, and I thought that, by reeling Trump back from some of his more outrageous claims, I'd done a public service and exposed the truth. But his confident deceptions were so big that they had an unexpected effect: Instead of believing that they were outright fabrications, my Forbes colleagues and I saw them simply as vain embellishments on the truth. We were so wrong. This was a model Trump would use for the rest of his career, telling a lie so cosmic that people believed that some kernel of it had to be real. The tactic landed him a place on the Forbes list he hadn't earned — and led to future accolades, press coverage, and deals. It eventually paved a path toward the presidency. [The Washington Post]
Former Playboy model Karen McDougal is now free to tell the world more about her purported 10-month extramarital affair with President Trump, and Stephen Colbert took a soft pass on Thursday's Late Show. But he had some thoughts on the debacle involving a Starbucks manager and Philadelphia police arresting two black men who had not purchased anything. The encounter, captured on cellphone video, prompted an apology from the CEO and chairman of Starbucks, and the Philadelphia police.
"That is a grievous racial injustice, and if you witness anything like this, for the love of God, don't film it in portrait mode!" Colbert aid. "Film it in landscape." Police released the 911 call, and it turns out the manager called in the complaint only 2 minutes after the men walked into the Rittenhouse Square Starbucks. "That's only 2 minutes later. 'Hello, 911, I'd like to report 120 seconds of sitting while being black,'" he said. "It's astounding that Starbucks employees would be so racially insensitive — after all, I'm pretty sure their logo is Beyoncé."
But Starbucks is dealing with the issue, closing 8,000 stores for an afternoon in May to instruct employees in "racial-bias education." "Eight thousand stores! That's almost all the locations on this block," Colbert joked. "I just wonder what this training session is going to be like for black Starbucks employees. 'Okay, guys, let's all settle down and listen while this nice white lady from HR tells us what racism is.'"
The Late Show also imagined a scenario in which not all black Starbucks customers would be thrilled with the training session, for a pretty obvious reason. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Friday, South Korea announced that it had set up and successfully tested a hotline that connects President Moon Jae-in with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "The historic direct telephone line between the leaders of the South and North has been connected a short while ago," said South Korean presidential official Youn Kun Young. "The test call went on for 4 minutes and 19 seconds starting at 3:41 p.m. with (officials from) both sides speaking to each other. ... The connection was smooth and the voice quality was very good. It was like calling the next door."
Moon and Kim did not participate in the test call, but they are expected to use it to converse sometime before their historic summit next week. The leaders of North and South Korea have met only twice before since the 1950-53 Korean War. Kim is also in talks to hold a summit with President Trump in early summer, and South Korean officials say Kim has shown genuine willingness to negotiate away his nuclear weapons program. Still, "North Korea for decades has been pushing a concept of 'denuclearization' that bears no resemblance to the American definition," The Associated Press notes, and it is not yet known what Kim is willing to put on the table. Peter Weber