July 28, 2014

For a franchise that kicked off its first installment with a wacky dwarf dinner party, Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy has taken a rather dark turn.

The new trailer for the third and final installment, The Battle of the Five Armies, finds Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) reflecting on the struggles of his journey so far. "One day I'll remember. Remember everything that happened," he says, as the trailer cuts to a montage of armies that include men, elves, and orcs. "The good, the bad. Those who survived, and those that did not."

This trailer promises "the defining chapter of the Middle-Earth saga" — a high bar for a franchise with an installment that earned no less than 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Can the final entry in the Hobbit trilogy live up to the hype? We'll find out when The Battle of the Five Armies hits theaters in December. --Scott Meslow

9:56 a.m. ET

Donald Trump has come under fire this week for his body-shaming comments, both past and present, about former model and Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado. But how would Trump himself fare on the catwalk? The New Yorker has imagined the scene for its new cover — you've been warned. Kimberly Alters

9:39 a.m. ET

A New Jersey Transit commuter train crashed Thursday morning at the station in Hoboken, New Jersey. Multiple "serious" injuries and possible casualties are reported.

"I got off my train on the way into work and as I was walking through the station, we could see that a train had come through the place where it's supposed to stop, all the way into the station — not into the waiting room but into the outdoor part," said Nancy Solomon of New York radio station WNYC. Photographs of the crash show significant damage to the station, including a partial collapse of the roof.

The crash happened around the height of the morning commute, around 8:30 a.m., though the number and severity of injuries is still unclear.

This is a breaking story that will be updated as more details become available. Jeva Lange

9:10 a.m. ET

The front page of Thursday's San Diego Union-Tribune is a powerful testament to the United States we live in now:

(San Diego Union-Tribune/

The front page photograph, taken by the Union Tribune's Hayne Palmour IV, captures protester Ebonay Lee as she "holds up her fist toward a line of Sheriff's deputies as she and other people protesting Tuesday's police shooting of a black man confront the deputies under the Highway 67 bridge on Broadway in El Cajon on Wednesday." Alfred Olango, an unarmed, mentally ill black man, was fatally shot by police in El Cajon on Tuesday afternoon, sparking two nights of protests. Olango's death comes on the heels of the police shootings of two other black men in separate incidents in Oklahoma and North Carolina this month.

You can read the Union Tribune's reporting here, and browse a gallery of the protests here. Jeva Lange

8:52 a.m. ET

Stephen Colbert began his Late Show monologue on Wednesday with another look at Monday night's debate, focusing on Donald Trump's spat with ex-Miss Universe Alicia Machado and continued insistence he won despite the evidence, and ended it with a look at a British sperm-bank app. But he spent the middle part on Elon Musk's newly unveiled plan to transport humans to Mars by 2022 — or "halfway through Mike Pence's second term," Colbert joked, since President Trump would quit on Day 3 — at a cost of $10 billion a head.

"Finally, a plan to shoot billionaires into space," Colbert said. "I believe we have gotten a photo of the project managers," he added, throwing to a photo of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in lab coats by a rocket. "The question is, why would it be $10 billion?" Colbert asked. "Where have I heard that number before? Wait a second, how much does Donald Trump say he has?" You know that answer. "Aha! Elon Musk wants Donald Trump off the planet!" Colbert said. "I tell you what, if Donald won't pony up, I say we pass around the hat — maybe this one?" And hey, MMGA has a certain ring to it? Watch below. Peter Weber

8:28 a.m. ET
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Multiple managers and directors at California's Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes complained under oath that they were pressured to fire overweight women and only hire attractive employees, The Los Angeles Times reports. "I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were 'not pretty enough' and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women," said the former director of catering at the club, Hayley Strozier, in a 2008 court filing.

In an effort to please Trump, Strozier recalled that managers would only have their most attractive women working when the big boss showed up at the club.

"Donald Trump always wanted good looking women working at the club," agreed former restaurant manager Sue Kwiatkowski in a 2009 court declaration. "I know this because one time he took me aside and said, 'I want you to get some good looking hostesses here. People like to see good looking people when they come in.'"

It was hardly a one-time occurrence, The Los Angeles Times reports:

Strozier, the former catering director, said Vincent Stellio — a former Trump bodyguard who had risen to become a Trump Organization vice president — approached her in 2003 about an employee that Strozier thought was talented.

Stellio wanted the employee fired because she was overweight, Strozier said in her legal filing.

"Mr. Stellio told me to do this because 'Mr. Trump doesn't like fat people' and that he would not like seeing [the employee] when he was on the premises,” wrote Strozier, who said she refused the request. (Stellio died in 2010.) [The Los Angeles Times]

There are many other examples, as The Los Angeles Times reports — and they come at a sensitive time, as Trump's comments about women have come under particular scrutiny in the wake of revelations about his treatment of a former Miss Universe. Read The Los Angeles Times' full story, here. Jeva Lange

7:49 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

There is little doubt in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind the Democratic National Committee hacks, although Russia has denied such allegations. Republican nominee Donald Trump has also dismissed any certainty that Russia was trying to toggle with the U.S. election: "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC," he said at the presidential debate Monday. "[Clinton is] saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?"

It is a curious deflection, especially since Trump might know even more about the hack than he is letting on:

[The] U.S. intelligence community has "high confidence" that Russian intelligence services were in fact responsible, multiple intelligence and national security officials tell Time. Trump was informed of that assessment during a recent classified intelligence briefing, a U.S. official familiar with the matter tells Time. "I do not comment on information I receive in intelligence briefings, however, nobody knows with definitive certainty that this was in fact Russia," Trump told Time in a statement. "It may be, but it may also be China, another country or individual." [Time]

President Barack Obama, for his part, has not been shy about sharing that he believes Russia is behind the cyberattack. "Experts have attributed this to the Russians," he said without any uncertainty or disclaimers in July.

Read more about the hack, and the shady group, Fancy Bear, that seems to be tied up in it, at Time. Jeva Lange

4:38 a.m. ET

"Are there any fans of big banks tonight?" Stephen Colbert asked on Wednesday's Late Show. "All right," he said when the crowd remained silent, "then this is the story for you." The story was the massive fraud at Wells Fargo, where employees were pressured to open up to 2 million accounts without informing the customers. "That's right," Colbert said, "not even a customary form letter that said 'Congratulations! You are pre-approved to get totally screwed!'"

CEO John Stumpf "stepped up and took personal responsibility by firing 5,300 low-level employees he blamed for the problem," Colbert said with mock solemnity. "It takes true leadership to stand up and say the buck stops 5,300 other places." Stumpf made $200 million as his bank ruined thousands of credit ratings, he added, so "I think I speak for a lot of people when I say: Go Stumpf yourself." Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) essentially did that when she "dragged Stumpf in front of the Senate and tore him a new Stumpf-hole," Colbert said.

After ripping the CEO a Stumpf-hole of his own, Colbert rolled his eyes over the $41 million Stumpf will forfeit in stock and the ouster of retail banking head Carrie Tolstedt — months before her planned retirement — and said if you're worried about Stumpf and Tolstedt (nobody was), fear not: She will likely walk away with $77 million in stock options, and him, $200 million in cash. "That's how you teach white collar crime doesn't pay," Colbert said. "It's like when a cop catches a burglar in the act of robbing your house and says, 'Put down that TV, buddy, now here's $200 million.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

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