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July 10, 2014

Watch out, Vice President Joe Biden.

Madeleine Albright is making her own bid for the heart of Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope, in the form of a perfectly delightful signed photo for the go-getting councilwoman from Pawnee, Ind.

Of course, real-life Leslie Knope is played by Amy Poehler, whose work on the NBC show earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy series today. I'd bet this picture shows up in Leslie's office sooner rather than later, considering the show heads into its final season this year. Sarah Eberspacher

les miz
1:52 p.m. ET

Broadway actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste, 21, died Saturday after falling from his mother's Brooklyn fire escape late the night before, Playbill reports. Jean-Baptiste made history as Broadway's youngest and first black Jean Valjean, the Les Misérables protagonist.

Jean-Baptiste, an understudy, debuted in the role July 23, and performed as Valjean for the last time Friday, hours before his fall. Ramin Karimloo, the current Valjean, gave a curtain call speech after Saturday's matinee and asked for a standing ovation to honor Jean-Baptiste.

The actor posted a photo of himself to Instagram on Friday showing before-and-after shots with his Valjean makeup.

"The tragic loss of Kyle to our company, just as he was on the threshold of a brilliant career, is a numbing reminder of how precious life is," Les Miz producer Cameron Mackintosh wrote. Julie Kliegman

a tale of two walls
1:06 p.m. ET

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has had a tough time clarifying his immigration platform in recent days, wavering on whether he supports birthright citizenship. The presidential hopeful called that debate a distraction in an interview for NBC's Meet the Press, focusing instead on border security.

Walker took the familiar Republican proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border one giant step further Sunday. He said he'd also consider building one along the U.S.-Canadian border, which runs 5,525 miles long.

"Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire," Walker said. "They raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that is a legitimate issue for us to look at."

Watch Walker's full interview with Chuck Todd below. Julie Kliegman

Let's make a deal
12:08 p.m. ET

Ann Arbor resident and big-time sneakerhead Matt Neal never expected a hobby could end up saving his life. But with two failing kidneys, the 26-year-old stumbled upon a solution: He could trade his limited-edition Yeezy Boost 350s for a new kidney.

Neal's offer, which he posted to a Facebook sneakerhead group on Thursday and then to his own timeline, started entirely as a joke, he told The Ann Arbor News. To his surprise, strangers actually started getting in touch, many of whom didn't even care about rocking Kanye West's Adidas sneakers, which are going for hundreds of dollars on eBay.

People are always joking that they would give a kidney for a pair of yeezy's!!Well here's your chance, I'm 26 with 2...

Posted by Matt Neal on Thursday, August 27, 2015

"A lot of people have been getting in contact with me to get tested!" he wrote on a Facebook thread Thursday. "I can't believe the love and support I'm getting from random strangers."

Neal started dialysis two years ago after his Berger's disease led to kidney failure. A healthy kidney from a Type B positive donor would last him up to 15 years. He's on the waitlist at University of Michigan Hospital, and is encouraging potential donors to get tested through that facility. But now that he's seen an outpouring of support, he recognizes the potential he has to help other patients, too.

"Now that I've gotten the world's attention, I would like to raise awareness about organ donation," Neal said.

Praise Yeezus. Julie Kliegman

By the numbers
11:25 a.m. ET
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Two men in Washington, D.C., were fatally shot Friday night, bringing the city's 2015 homicide count to 105 so far. That's the same number the nation's capital saw in all of 2014, The Washington Post reports.

"We face complex challenges, which is why I stand here not to give you half-truths or oversimplified answers," Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said Thursday, when she launched a $15 million plan to address the city's 40 percent increase in homicides over the same period in 2014. She said there's not just one reason for the spike, but suggested an increase in synthetic drugs and a small number of repeat violent offenders are possible contributing factors, The New York Times reports.

The mayor's announcement was interrupted by Black Lives Matter protesters, who took issue with her pledge to place more police officers in the city's most violent neighborhoods. Julie Kliegman

space
10:51 a.m. ET

Six people are going to spend the next year of their lives locked inside a tiny dome — for science. The isolation experiment, which started Friday, is NASA's latest and longest attempt at evaluating what interpersonal conflicts would be like during a trip to Mars, which is expected to take one to three years.

Based in Hawaii near a barren volcano, the team will live in isolation together with almost no privacy, Engadget reports. They'll survive in cramped living quarters on basic foods — we're talking canned tuna and powdered cheese.

So, who are these brave souls voluntarily participating in the worst possible Hawaiian vacation? A French astrobiologist, A German physicist, and an American pilot, soil scientist, architect, and a journalist. Technically, team members are allowed to leave the dome on occasion, but not without donning spacesuits first. Julie Kliegman

Gun Violence
10:29 a.m. ET
Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

When Darren Goforth, a white deputy officer, was ambushed and fatally shot Friday night, allegedly by a black man at a gas station outside Houston, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman wasted no time in linking the incident to the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests of police brutality.

"We've heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well, cops' lives matter too," Hickman said Saturday. "At any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen(s), this rhetoric has gotten out of control."

Firearms-related deaths of law enforcement officers in 2015 are down from the same period last year, Reuters reports.

Hickman called the shooting of the 10-year veteran "unprovoked." Deputies arrested 30-year-old Shannon Miles on Saturday. Julie Kliegman

RIP
8:42 a.m. ET
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

British neurologist and author Oliver Sacks died at 82 on Sunday, months after being diagnosed with terminal eye cancer, The New York Times reports. Sacks was a practicing doctor and a professor of neurology at New York University.

He was also well-known for his best-selling books, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and An Anthropologist on Mars. Awakenings, his autobiographical account of treating patients with encephalitis lethargica, a condition that renders people motionless, was later adapted in an Oscar-winning film starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.

In February, Sacks wrote about his ocular melanoma diagnosis and confronting his mortality in a touching Times op-ed:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. [The New York Times]

He wrote again for the Times earlier in August about "achieving a sense of peace within oneself" as he grew physically weaker. Julie Kliegman

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