July 23, 2014

The New Yorker's often-abstruse cartoons are treated like the literary set's Sunday Comics page. The one-frame cartoons are frequently funny, but so famously hard to understand that Seinfeld got an entire episode out of a particularly cryptic one. That's the background for Seth Meyers' second installment of theatrical re-enactments of New Yorker cartoons, featuring his Late Night Players and some real, not-particularly-hard-to-get cartoons.

These living comic strips are entertaining enough, but the highbrow icing on the cake is New Yorker editor David Remnick explaining what the cartoons mean. In great detail. There's a nice little tribute to frequent cartoon contributor Charles Barsotti, who died last month, near the end. Consider this the after-dinner mint to your late night nosh. --Peter Weber

8:26 a.m. ET
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President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at unraveling former President Barack Obama's climate change policies: "My action today is the latest in steps to grow American jobs," Trump said. But some of America's biggest companies are saying thanks but no thanks — and vowing to stick to environmental pledges made to Obama, Bloomberg Politics reports.

Walmart, for example, has already vowed to get half of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. "This work is embedded in our business," said Walmart spokesman Kevin Gardner. "[It's] good for the business, our shareholders, and customers; if ultimately we are able to positively impact the environment in the process, that's a win too."

The world's biggest beer company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, pledged Tuesday to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025, and Mars Inc. wants to eliminate its emissions atogether by 2040, with vice president of corporate affairs Andy Pharoah saying the company is "disappointed the [Trump] administration has decided to roll back climate regulations."

Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Ikea, Levi Strauss & Co. and Best Buy also said they would stick to climate change promises made to the Obama administration. And in a joint statement responding to Trump's executive order, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google's parent company, Alphabet, wrote: "We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth."

"Most big companies in the U.S. recognize that climate change is real," Columbia Business School professor Geoffrey M. Heal explained to Bloomberg Politics. "They need to move ahead on the climate change front no matter what Trump's government does." Jeva Lange

8:13 a.m. ET

The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding open hearings Thursday on Russian interference in the U.S. election through technology and disinformation, with a slate of academic and cybersecurity experts scheduled to testify, including former NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says the committee has requested interviews with 20 individuals, five of which have been scheduled, but he named only one of the 20, President Trump's son-in-law and top aide Jared Kushner.

The Senate Intelligence Committee — which presented itself Wednesday as the quieter, more responsible older sibling of the House Intelligence Committee — is in talks to interview former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele, who compiled the mostly unverified dossier on Trump's connections with Russian officials, NBC News reported Wednesday, citing "three sources with direct knowledge." Steele is reportedly concerned about his safety and is wary to leave London, however, and also worried about how he will be treated by the Trump administration. The FBI was in talks to pay Steele for information last fall, "sources familiar with the matter" told NBC News, but that fell through.

Other people who have agreed to testify include Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone, but the committee has not yet reached agreement on when to interview them or the terms, two congressional officials tell NBC News, adding that criminal immunity for talking is not likely on the table.

On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will explore the various ways Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election and is meddling in other elections, too. "There were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect, taking over series of computers, which is then called a botnet," ranking Democrat Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) said Wednesday. One line of inquiry is whether Russian fake news was served to voters in key states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, he added. "We are in a whole new realm around cyber that provides opportunity for huge, huge threats to our basic democracy." Peter Weber

7:57 a.m. ET

House Speaker Paul Ryan is fretting that President Trump might abandon Republicans to work with the Democrats if Republicans don't start producing results soon. "What I worry about, Norah, is that if we don't [pass a GOP health care bill], then [Trump will] just go work with Democrats to try and change ObamaCare and that's not — that's hardly a conservative thing," Ryan told CBS This Morning's Norah O'Donnell on Wednesday. "[I]f this Republican Congress allows the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I worry we'll push the president into working with Democrats; he's been suggesting that as much."

Politico Playbook described Ryan's comment as "pretty striking," writing "the Republican speaker of the House acknowledges that the Republican president will abandon their party and work with Democrats if the GOP doesn't step up its game soon."

Ryan added: "I want a patient-centered system. I don't want government running health care. The government shouldn't tell you what you must do with your life, with your health care. We should give people choices." Watch the interview below. Jeva Lange

6:55 a.m. ET

The past year "has been both difficult and easier than you might think," FBI Director James Comey said Wednesday at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance dinner in Washington, D.C. "What makes it easy is we're not on anybody's side, ever. We're not considering whose ox will be gored by this action or that action, whose fortunes will be helped by this or that — we just don't care, and we can't care." The "painful part," he added, "is that we confuse people, and the reason we confuse people is most people see the world differently than we do, especially in a hyperpartisan environment. Most people are wearing glasses that filter the world according to side."

Comey sincerely seemed to believe that he was being completely apolitical when he said the FBI had found new evidence about Hillary Clinton a week before the election, then said two days before voting that it turned out to be nothing, or when he publicly confirmed last week that the bureau is investigating possible electoral collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russian intelligence.

"Now, we're not fools — I know that when I make a hard decision, a storm's going to follow," he said. "But honestly, I don't care. If I have thought about it carefully and am doing the right thing, making the right judgment, it doesn't matter what's going to follow." That politics-free vacuum makes his job easier, Comey said, but it's also necessary. "If we ever start to think about who will be affected in what way by our decisions in a political sense, we're done." You can watch below. Peter Weber

6:24 a.m. ET

William Powell wrote The Anarchist Cookbook between 1969 and 1971 because, he said while renouncing the book in The Guardian in 2013, he "was being actively pursued by the military, who seemed single-mindedly determined to send me to fight, and possibly die, in Vietnam," and "I wanted to publish something that would express my anger." The book has reportedly sold more than 2 million copies, not counting internet downloads, and its recipes for explosives, weapons, and DIY warfare have been linked to terrible attacks from the Columbine High School massacre to the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Powell died of a heart attack last July while vacationing with his family in Canada, though his death wasn't widely reported, The New York Times says, until last week's theatrical release of a new documentary about him, American Anarchist, which noted his death in the credits. He was 66. After publishing the book in 1971, Powell embarked on a career in education, working mostly with and for children with special needs, often in foreign countries.

Powell was born on Long Island in 1949, the son of a press officer at the United Nations and a mother who ran a phobia clinic. He developed a British accent when his father was stationed in the U.K., and says he was bullied and abused when he returned to school in New York. During a week of interviews in 2015, Powell told American Anarchist director Charlie Siskel that when he learned his book had been linked to Columbine and other gruesome attacks, "I did feel responsible, but I didn't do it," he said. "Somebody else with a perverted, distorted sense of reality did something awful. I didn't." You can watch a trailer for the documentary below. Peter Weber

5:19 a.m. ET
Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images

China's foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that President Xi Jinping will travel to Florida April 6-7 for his first meeting with President Trump. The leaders of the world's largest and second-largest economies will meet at Trump's private club, Mar-a-Lago, where Trump also hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in February. Unlike Abe, Xi will not stay at Mar-a-Lago, Lantana Police Chief Sean Scheller said on Monday, before the long-expected meeting was officially confirmed. Instead, China's president will be staying at the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa.

Xi will arrive in the U.S. after a state visit to Finland, China said. In Florida, Xi and Trump are likely to discuss trade, North Korea's nuclear aggression, China's military buildup in the disputed South China Sea, among other topics. Trump was harshly critical of China on the campaign trail and right after his election, but has toned down his criticism since taking office. Peter Weber

4:51 a.m. ET

"Anybody here use the internet?" Stephen Colbert asked his audience at Wednesday's Late Show. "Might want to knock that off, because Congress has now voted to allow internet providers to sell your web-browsing history." The audience booed, and Colbert took the longer view. "This is what's wrong with Washington, D.C.," he said. "I guarantee you, there is not one person, not one voter of any political stripe anywhere in America, who asked for this. No one. No one in America stood up at a town hall said, 'Sir, I demand you let somebody else make money off my shameful desires!'"

"I can't believe they're publicly taking the side of big internet cable companies," Colbert said. "Taking the side of a cable company? The only thing less popular would be if they passed a bill allowing traffic jams to call you during dinner to give you gonorrhea." He played a clip of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who wrote the bill, gamely defending it as good for consumer privacy. "I know what's in her internet history," Colbert said: "'How to spout bullshit.'" Along with being able to sell your browser history, the bill makes it so ISPs also no longer have to protect customer information against hackers and thieves.

"At least Congress did something, that's refreshing," Colbert said. After their health-care dumpster fire last week, Republicans are returning with a "Plan B," and President Trump said Wednesday that passing the mysterious new bill will be super easy this time. "When he says stuff like that, it worries me. Just five days ago, just five days ago, the Republican Party exploded in a mist of blood and bone fragments," Colbert said. "He has the memory of a goldfish — maybe that's why he's the exact same color."

The Late Show also dabbled in a little fictional fair-play, imagining what you would find if you purchased the browsing history of congressional Republicans — then releasing it for all to see. (It's SFW). Watch below. Peter Weber

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