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June 26, 2014

I can't imagine what possessed them to try this, but the guys at RedLetterMedia prepared for the release of Transformers 4 by watching the first three movies simultaneously. When they weren't fighting back waves of nausea, they discovered remarkable coincidences between the movies, particularly the first two, where similar story beats with the same characters happened within moments of each other. Why, it's almost like they were cynically stamped out like license plates! --Ryan Cooper

10:59 a.m. ET

The ideological uniformity of President-elect Donald Trump's Cabinet nominations to date is, perhaps, in the eye of the beholder: Those more sympathetic to the new president may be more likely to see a healthy "team of rivals" coming together, while critics see a dangerous mélange of yes-men and sycophants.

Americans should hope Trump's supporters are closer to the truth, argues Bilal Baloch, an Oxford scholar, at The Washington Post. Baloch's research indicates a rivalrous team of advisors is a bulwark against rash action and intolerance:

Ideologically plural governments are more likely to behave tolerantly. Ideas act as weapons, and no one position can "win out" and undo institutional integrity. In other words, what's key to a government that behaves tolerantly isn't sharing a partisan ideology, be it conservative or liberal; rather, it's having internal ideological checks and balances, including administration officials in positions of power who vigorously disagree amongst themselves. [...]

If presidents or prime ministers plan to govern in an authoritarian manner, they will emphasize loyalty when picking advisers and by relying more on military and security personnel. If they plan to govern democratically, they will emphasize selecting advisers with legislative and political experience who can advance the policy agenda effectively. [The Washington Post]

Read the rest of Baloch's analysis here. Bonnie Kristian

10:59 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for labor secretary is reportedly Andy Puzder, CEO of the company that owns burger joints Hardee's and Carl's Jr. Puzder has been an advocate for rolling back regulations in the restaurant industry, and he has expressed opposition to raising the federal minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act. He has also shown an interest in "employee-free" restaurants, because machines, unlike people, "always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder said, per Business Insider.

A spokesman for the International Franchise Association, a trade group Puzder is on the board of, said Puzder will "likely call for tools such as an overhaul of the tax system" as opposed to "focusing on stepping up workplace regulation to create jobs and higher wages," The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump is expected to formally announce Puzder's nomination Thursday. Becca Stanek

10:51 a.m. ET

It looks as if 2017 is off to a very, very bright start. Bright green, anyway. The experts at the Pantone Color Institute have announced that "Greenery" is the 2017 color of the year and they are very excited about it:

Greenery is nature's neutral. The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world. This shift is reflected by the proliferation of all things expressive of Greenery in daily lives through urban planning, architecture, lifestyle and design choices globally. A constant on the periphery, Greenery is now being pulled to the forefront — it is an omnipresent hue around the world.

A life-affirming shade, Greenery is also emblematic of the pursuit of personal passions and vitality. [Pantone]

Life-affirming! Here is a video of people soaking up "zesty" Pantone 15-0343:

"Greenery burst forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment," the Pantone Color Institute's executive director, Leatrice Eiseman, explained. "Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose."

Feeling inspired? Life affirmed? Buy a Greenery mug and don't let 2017 leave you behind. Jeva Lange

10:36 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview with Politico published Thursday that his party's thorough election rout is not due to anything the Democrats themselves did wrong. Rather, he said, the loss should be blamed on campaign finance law, the Koch brothers, and especially FBI Director James Comey.

"They have Trump, I understand that. But I don't think the Democratic Party is in that big of trouble," Reid told Politico, rejecting any suggestion that his party must do some serious soul-searching. "I mean, if Comey kept his mouth shut [about Hillary Clinton's email investigation in the final days before the vote], we would have picked up a couple more Senate seats and we probably would have elected Hillary." Clinton herself has made the same argument about Comey's role in the election.

In the same interview, Reid said his decision to lead Senate Democrats in going "nuclear" on the filibuster for most judicial nominations may be one of his greatest achievements, and he happily predicted the total demise of the filibuster in the near future. "You can't have a democracy decided by 60 out of 100," Reid said, "and that's why changing the rules is one of the best things that has happened to America in a long time." Though some have predicted Senate Republicans will abolish the filibuster entirely this coming year to cement their multi-branch power, GOP lawmakers have so far expressed little enthusiasm for the idea.

Reid's farewell speech after more than three decades in Washington is scheduled for Thursday. Bonnie Kristian

10:20 a.m. ET
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For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy from birth in the U.S. declined last year, a report released Thursday by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed. Life expectancy in the U.S. typically grows incrementally longer each year — or at least stays the same — but 2015 was an exception. While the decline was by only about a month — from an average lifespan of 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.8 years in 2015 — The Washington Post noted it's still a "troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems" in the country.

The last time life expectancy from birth decreased was in 1993, amid the AIDS crisis. Before that, it was in the 1980s after a bad flu season. In 2015, there was no disease outbreak on which to pin the unexpected decrease. Death rates spiked for eight of the 10 leading causes of death in the country, with heart disease, the No. 1 cause, killing more than 600,000 people.

Some experts contend the numbers, which the lead author described as "unusual" in that "so many of leading causes of death increased," could easily even back out the next year. The measure, based mainly on the year's death certificates, could also be a reflection of the country's "growing and aging population," USA Today reported. Others, however, think this could be cause for concern. "I think we should be very concerned," said Princeton economist Anne Case. "This is singular. This doesn't happen." Becca Stanek

10:07 a.m. ET
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump's chief of staff, Reince Preibus, cracked a joke at a Manhattan fundraiser Wednesday night that might not go over too well with advocates for civil rights and women's rights, Politico reports. Trump will be such a good president that his face will one day go on the $20 bill, Preibus suggested to the audience.

The joke comes at a particularly sensitive time, as anti-slavery icon Harriet Tubman has been proposed to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill — a plan that is threatened by Trump's presidency. Trump has previously called the idea of replacing Jackson with Tubman "pure political correctness," and countered that another denomination might be better for Tubman, such as the $2 bill.

"We certainly are worried, when Trump won the election, that he might try to make good on his suggestion that Harriet Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead of the $20 bill. It would be a slap in the face of women to reverse the decision in our opinion," the executive director of Women on 20s, Susan Ades Stone, told MarketWatch.

Meanwhile, Canada just announced that it is putting a Canadian woman on its new bank notes for the first time. Jeva Lange

9:42 a.m. ET

Canadian Minister of Finance Bill Morneau announced Thursday that the nation will put civil rights icon Viola Desmond on its new $10 bill. Desmond is the first Canadian woman to be featured on the nation's bank notes.

A black Nova Scotian, Desmond refused to leave the whites-only section of a movie theater in 1946, an event that helped spark the Canadian civil rights movement. The incident occurred nine years before U.S. civil rights activist Rosa Parks made a similar statement on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Morneau said in his announcement that Desmond's story "will remind all of us, and future generations, that big change can start with small moments of dignity and bravery." Jeva Lange

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