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
Fifty-five percent of Americans say they have never heard of Independent candidate Evan McMullin, but in Utah he sits only one point back from Donald Trump, a UtahPolicy.com survey published Friday has found.
A conservative Mormon and graduate of Brigham Young University, McMullin offers an appealing alternative to Trump for conflicted Utah voters. Trump still manages to lead in the state with 30 percent, followed by McMullin at 29 percent and Clinton at 25 percent. Interestingly, Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, finished third in Utah in his 1992 election behind George W. Bush and Ross Perot.
But just because McMullin is Mormon doesn't make him a lock for LDS members. While he leads 43 percent to Trump's 31 percent with "very active" LDS voters, Trump leads McMullin by 15 points among "somewhat active" Mormons. "If you want to understand why Utah has suddenly become the flavor of the month among the political cognoscenti, look no further than independent voters," UtahPolicy.com explains. "Among that group, Trump comes in third place, with McMullin grabbing 31 percent, Clinton winning 27 percent, and Trump with 20 percent."
The RealClearPolitics average for Utah between Aug. 19 and Oct. 14. shows Trump at 37 percent on Clinton's 23 percent, trailed by Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The UtahPolicy.com survey was conducted by Dan Jones & Associates between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18, 2016, among 818 likely Utah voters. It has a margin of error plus or minus 4 percent. Jeva Lange
Donald Trump has urged his supporters to "watch the polling booths" on Nov. 8, a rallying cry that has election officials worrying — and training for how to deal with guns or possible attacks at the polls.
It is an unprecedented situation; in fact, most states don't even have laws governing guns at polling places, sending election officials scrambling to sort through their states' various open-carry and concealed weapons laws, The Washington Post reports.
"We've never seen this level of concern, this far out from Election Day — poll workers in states across the country being trained to deal with guns," Everytown for Gun Safety spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb said.
In Colorado, for example, poll workers are being trained on how to respond to a mass shooting at the voting site. In Philadelphia, election commissioner Lisa Deeley is also considering training law enforcement officers on what to do if someone opens fire. "It's one of the many things that we are contemplating prior to election day," Deeley told The Guardian. "There's a lot that we have to hash out, and it's a new unfortunate reality that we have to think about these things."
Trump, stoking fears of a rigged election, has told his supporters, "You've got to go out, and you've got to get your friends, and you've got to get everybody you know, and you gotta watch the polling booths." He has also claimed that "second Amendment people" could stop Hillary Clinton.
In a recent report by The Boston Globe, one voter explained, "Trump said to watch your precincts. I'm going to go, for sure. I'll look for…well, it's called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I'm not going to do anything illegal. I'm going to make them a little bit nervous." Jeva Lange
Hillary Clinton's campaign had a curious disbursement listed on its Federal Elections Commission filings for September — $260 spent at the Trump International Hotel.
But despite having dropped campaign cash in the heart of enemy territory, it appears Clinton and her team truly got the last laugh in the end:
Clinton campaign trolls Trump in FEC report pic.twitter.com/gV6NRqtFX0
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) October 21, 2016
Iraqi military and Kurdish peshmerga forces drew within 10 miles of the outskirts of Islamic State–held Mosul on Thursday night, and early Friday, ISIS launched a series of coordinated attacks on Kirkuk, about 100 miles away. At least 11 people were killed by ISIS militants at a power plant 30 miles north of Kirkuk, including at least three Iranian engineers, and there are an unknown number of casualties from multiple suicide bombers, grenades, and gun battles inside Kirkuk. Security forces have at least two ISIS militants surrounded in a building used as a hotel, Iraqi security forces say.
The attacks on Kirkuk appear to be an attempt by ISIS to draw forces away from the Mosul offensive. Peter Weber
If you missed Wednesday's final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — or you didn't — and you don't want to watch it (again) because it was ugly, long, or boring, "Weird Al" Yankovic and the Gregory Brothers have already made it short and sweet for your pleasurable consumption. Weird Al is the moderator of this three-and-a-half-minute debate, and like actual moderator Chris Wallace, he asks substantive questions then gets out of the way and lets Clinton and Trump answer — only he belts out the questions and the candidates' answers are edited and auto-tuned so they sing them in rhyme (somehow while still remaining coherent).
"We can't say we were shocked that songifying the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump revealed a terrifying space opera about bad hombres and nasty women," the Gregory Brothers write in The New York Times. "So terrifying, in fact, that it ripped open a wormhole to another dimension, and pulled an unsuspecting Weird Al Yankovic in from his home in a parallel universe to moderate the whole thing." If that sounds unpleasant to watch, just give it a try — as the Gregory Brothers write, "the hidden songs of the cosmos are full of surprises." Peter Weber
Rich Hall is an American comedian who has the unenviable task of translating the 2016 election for inhabitants of Great Britain on BBC News, and he kicked things off with a list of five things Britons "should probably know about the United States presidential election." He does this in a little over 2 minutes, and his first four points make for a pretty insightful civics lesson that American voters would benefit from watching as well.
For example, in explaining that Americans vote for state and local offices, not just president, Hall says that "the traffic cone commissioner is more important to most Americans than the president" — you probably won't find "traffic cone commissioner" on your ballot, but his point that local elections affect Americans more than national ones is a good one and underappreciated. He also explains the electoral college very succinctly, and reminds everyone (especially Americans) that America has had uglier elections than this one. "I'm pretty sure Trump is not going to come out and call Hillary a cannibal," Hall said. "I mean, he could, but he probably won't." The last point is probably true if you are talking about petitions to legalize marijuana, but Britons, this is actually not how Americans conduct presidential polls. Still, watch and learn below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert asks how America's fate came to rest 'in Donald Trump's tiny, whining, loser hands?'
Stephen Colbert began Thursday's Late Show by noting he has a "Trump hangover" from the "third and final debate — if there is a God." In his live post-debate show Wednesday night, Colbert lit into Donald Trump for refusing to say he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election, and Colbert wasn't done 24 hours later. "Now the polls pretty much all say Clinton won, but Trump is no longer accepting the polls — or reality," he said, noting that Trump pledged on Thursday to "totally accept" the results "if I win."
The audience booed, but Colbert laughed. "Come on, you got to give it to him," he said, pointing toward Trump: "You really got me for a second there: I actually believed you had a shred of integrity." Colbert put this in perspective. "What an amazing psych-out, you know, a national psych-out," he said. "It's like that classic joke where you offer to shake somebody's hand, but when they go to shake it, you undermine our system of government." He dropped the laughter, mostly. "How did we get to the point where the fate of the American experiment rests in Donald Trump's tiny, whining, loser hands?" Colbert asked. "And undermining 250 years of representative democracy to protect his ego wasn't Trump's only contribution to the debate." Watch below for a few more shots from the debate and one halfhearted dig at Hillary Clinton. Peter Weber