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July 4, 2014

Former Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a key rival of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said late Thursday that he would bow out and not seek another term to make it easier for Shiite parties to settle on a replacement for Maliki. Shiite politicians have been deadlocked on the leadership question despite pressure from the U.S., Iran, and the United Nations to unite the nation against a Sunni extremist insurgency by forming a new government sharing more power with the other main ethnic blocs, Sunnis and Kurds. Read more at Reuters. Harold Maass

1:26 p.m. ET

The White House decided to mix things up at its daily press briefing Friday by having a fictional character step into Press Secretary Josh Earnest's role. Yes, seriously.

Allison Janney, who played the whip-smart press secretary C.J. Cregg on The West Wing, took over the podium while Earnest was supposedly out of commission for a root canal.

"But let's be honest," Janney said, "I'm better at this anyway."

Watch Janney's briefing, which — spoiler alert — Earnest eventually crashes, below. Becca Stanek

1:14 p.m. ET
iStock

Your friend is getting married. Hooray! Now pay up.

On average, Millennials spend nearly $900 for every wedding they attend as a guest, according to numbers crunched by American Express this week. In comparison, the average American wedding guest spends 27 percent less, around $703 per wedding. That number accounts for an average of $205 spent on airfare, $166 on attire, and $69 on child or pet care.

Millennials, though, break the bank by spending on average $893 per wedding or, if they're a part of the wedding party, $928. Wedding gifts don't come cheap, either. When purchasing gifts for family members, Americans spend an average of $127, or $99 on friends.

Better start saving up — wedding season hits its peak in June. Jeva Lange

1:09 p.m. ET
STAFF/AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon announced Friday that it has punished 16 American military personnel, including a two-star general, for the deadly strike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42. Because the Pentagon determined the attack was not intentional, but rather the fault of human error, fatigue, and technical errors, those punished will not face criminal charges. Instead, the punishments will be "administrative actions" only, including suspension, removal from command, and letters of reprimand.

The attack occurred after crew members reportedly mistook the hospital for a Taliban-controlled building about a quarter of a mile away. Becca Stanek

12:24 p.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the Republican presidential race during a Friday appearance on a conservative talk radio show. "I'm not against anyone, but I will be voting for Ted Cruz," Pence said, though he first went out of his way to commend Donald Trump for giving a voice to "the frustration of millions of Americans."

Pence's endorsement comes just four days ahead of Indiana's Tuesday primary, which is critical for Cruz to win if he wants to prevent frontrunner Donald Trump from locking up the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the nomination. Becca Stanek

11:17 a.m. ET

With her sights set on the general election, Hillary Clinton sent out a series of Snapchat attacks on Donald Trump on Thursday, using the app's face-swap feature to overlay Trump's orange visage with the features of presidents past.

As Politico explains — and it seems like some explanation might be needed, given the nature of Clinton's references and the age of the average Snapchat user — each one pairs a relevant president with a comment or policy of Trump's which Clinton wanted to critique. These combos range from the obvious (Lincoln plus Trump's KKK gaffe) to the more obscure (the first President Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, plus Trump's mocking of a disabled reporter). Bonnie Kristian

10:49 a.m. ET

The modern global economy is structured more around mega-cities than national borders, says Parag Khanna, author of a new book called Connectographyand the good news for the United States is that we have a lot of them. While other countries often rely on a single city to drive their economy (like Lagos for Nigeria, Istanbul for Turkey, or Moscow for Russia) America has a lot of big, productive metro areas.

That's the basis for Khanna's design of a re-mapped America organized around city-states instead of the 50 states we have today.


(Washington Post)

Khanna argues that such a reorganization (which includes a high-speed rail scheme to facilitate inter-regional mobility) would be an economic boon, and it would cut back on unfair pork barrel spending that benefits one district at the expense of others. "And if you do that," he concludes, "the laws of economics will take over, and people will more freely engage in commerce." Bonnie Kristian

10:48 a.m. ET

Fox News host Megyn Kelly pushed North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) Thursday night on The Kelly File to clear up her confusion over the state's controversial anti-LGBT law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender given on their birth certificates. Namely, Kelly wanted to know whether McCrory knew how women's bathrooms were set up.

"I want to ask you about bathrooms because I've been in women's bathrooms my whole life," Kelly said. "We don't have the urinal situation. We've got like the stalls. And we get to go in, we do our business and like we don't — it's not — we don't see each other. So why are you concerned about young girls exposing themselves or seeing somebody else exposed in a women's bathroom?"

McCrory's responded by calling the law "common sense" relating to an "expectation of privacy."

"I can't believe we're talking about this," he said, adding that the issue in particular was started by the left, not the right. "I'm not doing it — I don't like the rhetoric that's often used on the right saying what the fear is," McCrory said. "It's a basic expectation of privacy that I hear from mom and dad and families that when their daughter or son goes into a facility, a restroom, they expect people of that gender, of that biological sex or gender, to be the only other ones in that room."

Watch the exchange below. Becca Stanek

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