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
President Trump is still overseas, Stephen Colbert noted on Wednesday's Late Show. "And he might want to stay over there for a little while, until the firemen can put out his budget proposal. Not only does nobody like it, but it turns out it has a huge mistake in it — not the part about cutting funding for cancer research, that's just one of his passion projects." No, he was talking about the $2 trillion accounting error. "There's a simple explanation for how this happened: Donald Trump is an idiot," Colbert said. "Or he's lying." The fault actually lies with White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who says the $2 trillion error isn't a mistake, but what fun is that? "Let me see if I can help — here is a basic math lesson for Donald Trump," Colbert said: "If a train leaves Washington, D.C., traveling at 40 mph, please get on it."
Colbert then turned to Trump's visit to the Vatican "That's exciting — it's one of the few places on Earth with more old white men than his Cabinet," he said. Trump and Pope Francis butted heads over immigration during the presidential campaign, so some people were expecting a tense meeting — and judging from the pope's demeanor, it may have been, he added. But Trump seemed pleased, kind of, saying afterward that the pope "is something." "The pope is, indeed, something," Colbert said. "As Jesus himself said, 'Blessed are the vague, for they shall inherit, you know, stuff.'"
As is traditional, Francis and Trump exchanged gifts, "but the best part of the visit happened at the end," Colbert said, "when the pope threw a little shade at Trump's physique," asking first lady Melania Trump, "What do you give him to eat, potizza?" — a high-calorie pastry from her native Slovenia. "The pope just called the president chubby," Colbert said. "I cannot believe that the infallible vicar of Christ just played the dozens on our president." He turned to Cartoon Pope Francis for some answers, and, well, Cartoon Pope Francis just isn't sorry. Peter Weber
Vermont's Middlebury College has disciplined 67 of 100 or so students who disrupted a March lecture by Charles Murray, a conservative author and American Enterprise Institute scholar, but none of the students were suspended or expelled. The punishments range "from probation to official college discipline," Middlebury said in a statement on Tuesday, with the last action — meted out to 10 or fewer students — leaving a mark on the students' permanent academic record. The Middlebury Police also said it won't bring any charges in the incident, which left faculty member Allison Stanger injured.
"The sanctions are a farce," Murray said Wednesday. "They will not deter anyone. They're a statement to students that if you shut down a lecture, nothing will happen to you." Middlebury spokesman Bill Burger disagreed, saying 20 of the students are appealing the punishments. "What I can tell you is that the students who received them don't think they're meaningless," he said.
In the March incident, a group of 100 to 150 protesters shouted that Murray was racist and sexist, referring to his 1994 book The Bell Curve. When he left the stage and moved to another room for a live-streamed Q&A session, students pulled the fire alarm. A group of protesters, some wearing masks and maybe not all students, accosted Murray and Stanger when they left the building for a car, and Stanger was treated for a concussion after someone pulled her hair. Police said they did not have enough evidence to press charges, in part because they couldn't identify the assailants. Peter Weber
Jimmy Kimmel jokes his way through Trump's visit with Pope Francis, and Fox News' 'slobbering' coverage
Wednesday was "an historic day, a holy day — maybe even an a-holy day — as his holiness met his bigliness at the Vatican," Jimmy Kimmel said on Wednesday's Kimmel Live. There were actually "no major incidents" when President Trump met with Pope Francis, he assured everyone. "The pope made it clear that he would like our president to join him in promoting peace, giving aid to the poor, and protecting our environment, and the pope is very persuasive. Unfortunately, Trump is only in year 70 of his 100-year deal with the devil right now, and he's got a no-trade clause, so it's very unlikely he would switch teams."
When Pope Francis meets with world leaders, "he doesn't have much of a... poper face, I guess," Kimmel said. He showed photos of Francis meeting various world leaders, and noted his expression, then showed the pope and Trump, with some realistically fake footage of a papal hand-swatting and fake photos of Trump's gift for Pope Francis. But the Fox News coverage he showed was real. "If you were visiting from another planet and turned on Fox News, you really might not know which of these guys was the holy one," Kimmel said, playing some of the "slobbering" commentary, and then some. Watch below. Peter Weber
Leonard the pit bull is proof that with a little training, a misunderstood dog is capable of doing amazing things.
When Leonard, 1, was rescued in Ohio last October, he was almost euthanized because the shelter didn't think anyone would adopt him. He liked to take things that weren't his and had a one-track mind, and the Union County Humane Society realized that while it would be hard for him to sit around someone's house, those traits would make him a successful police dog. They contacted the Clay Township Police Department, and after some tests and training, Leonard joined the force on May 19, becoming Ohio's first official police pit bull.
Leonard's job is to find narcotics, and when he's off duty, he lives with Chief of Police Terry Mitchell. "He would just as soon climb on your lap and give you kisses and go to sleep as he would do anything else, but he's really taken to the vest," Mitchell told WTOL. "When you put that vest on him, he's all business. It's like he knows it's time to go to work." Catherine Garcia
Montana GOP congressional candidate Greg Gianforte cited for assault after altercation with reporter
Greg Gianforte, the Republican running against Democrat Rob Quist in Thursday's special election for the open House seat in Montana, has been issued a citation for misdemeanor assault related to his reported manhandling of reporter Ben Jacobs at a campaign event Wednesday evening in Bozeman, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said Wednesday night. "The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault," Gootkin said in a statement, adding that Gianforte "is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7." The punishment for misdemeanor assault is no more than $500 or up to 6 months in county jail.
Gootkin also said that he had been asked about a political contribution he'd made to Gianforte's campaign. "I did contribute $250.00 on March 23, 2017," the sheriff said. "This contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete." Gianforte has long been expected to win the heavily Republican state, though the race is much closer than Republicans would like. Quist has been hammering Gianforte for telling donors he supports the House GOP health-care bill and telling the public he opposes it; Jacobs was asking Gianforte about the new Congressional Budget Office score of the bill when, according to Fox News reporters in the room, Gianforte "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground." Peter Weber
Professor: Altercation with reporter could make Greg Gianforte more appealing to some Montana voters
As "nuts" as it was, it's anyone's guess how the altercation between Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte and Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs will affect Thursday's special election in Montana, University of Montana political science professor Robert Saldin said Wednesday night.
Several voters have already cast their ballots, Saldin told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and some anti-media Republicans might be sympathetic to Gianforte, who has used strong rhetoric against journalists in previous campaign speeches. Jacobs tweeted Wednesday evening that Gianforte body slammed him when he was asking a question during a campaign event, an account supported by a team from Fox News. The Guardian has released audio of the incident, and Gianforte's campaign released a statement at odds with what's heard on the recording and reported by Fox News. Jacobs walked into a room without permission and "aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face," the Gianforte campaign said, insisting that the candidate merely "attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground."
In a news conference Wednesday night, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said because authorities are investigating the altercation, he couldn't provide much information beyond that Gianforte and Jacobs will both be interviewed. Tina Olechowski, a spokeswoman for Democratic candidate Rob Quist, declined to comment about the incident when asked by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and said Quist was on his way to Missoula when he heard about what happened. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law said the Republican Party should publicly speak out against what Gianforte allegedly did. Catherine Garcia
In December, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe joined Stephen Colbert to reluctantly ring out 2016 with a list of terrible things that happened last year, while still feeling fine. On Wednesday's Late Show, it was Paul Simon's turn for a duet on the emotional duality of these times we live in. Colbert asked Simon whey he didn't play "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" anymore. "Oh, I loathe that song," Simon said. "It just feels naive, you know, just doesn't feel like 2017." "What do you mean naive?" Colbert asked. "Wrong mood," Simon said. Colbert suggested some changes, starting with: "Hello lamppost, nice to see ya / We might get bombed by North Korea." But don't worry, they're still feelin' groovy (or at least Colbert is). Watch and sing along below. Peter Weber