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The Daily Showdown
May 20, 2014

Jon Stewart is mad as hell, and he's not going to take it. On Monday night's Daily Show, Stewart turned to the growing scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department over VA hospitals reportedly manipulating their waiting lists to hide long delays in treating military veterans. The long waits at the VA is one of Stewart's causes, and he let loose on VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, President Obama, and everyone in the previous administration for half-heartedly expressing their outrage over various delays while failing to solve this festering problem.

"Here's what disgusts me," Stewart said. "We as a country were able to ship 300,000 troops halfway across the world in just a few months to fight a war that cost us $2 trillion" in under-the-table cash, but "it takes longer than that to get someone hurt in that war needed medical care or reimbursement." Stewart's broader case isn't airtight — is the problem really that politicians and bureaucrats aren't acting like angry feral cats? — but this charge is a really good one with no great answer. --Peter Weber

Clinton Emails
2:43 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Richard Drew

In August, a House committee issued a subpoena to Brian Pagliano, a former information-technology staffer on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid who later worked at the State Department and set up and oversaw Clinton's private email server at her home in New York. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of that committee — set up to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya — ordered Pagliano to testify on Sept. 10 and provide documents related to Clinton's homebrew server, The Washington Post reports. Through his lawyer, Pagliano said he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent if he is compelled to attend the hearing.

"It is not clear why Mr. Pagliano is refusing to answer questions about the server," notes Michael S. Schmidt at The New York Times. "The FBI is investigating how classified information was handled in connection with the account, but no evidence has surfaced that Mr. Pagliano had anything to do with those materials."

Pagliano's lawyer, Mark MacDougall, acknowledged in a letter to Gowdy that the decision "may be controversial in the current political environment," but cited the FBI investigation and quoted a Supreme Court ruling about the Fifth Amendment protecting "innocent men... 'who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances.'"

Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, blamed Gowdy and backed Pagliano's decision. "Although multiple legal experts agree there is no evidence of criminal activity, it is certainly understandable that this witness's attorneys advised him to assert his Fifth Amendment rights, especially given the onslaught of wild and unsubstantiated accusations" from Republicans, he said. "Their insatiable desire to derail Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign at all costs has real consequences for any serious congressional effort." Peter Weber

last night on late night
1:06 a.m. ET

On Tuesday's Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon asked Justin Bieber why he cried at the end of his performance at Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards. "It was just so overwhelming for me, everything," Bieber said: "The performance; I missed some cues, so I was disappointed at that; and just everyone.... I wasn't expecting them to support me in the way that they did." The last time he was at an awards show, the crowed booed him, he added. "I worked so hard at this album, I worked so hard at just becoming the man I want to become," that the moment overwhelmed him.

Fallon lightened the mood with a joke about harnesses, but then the chat got back to why everybody was booing Bieber before: He was acting like an immature jerk. Bieber blamed that on the "knuckleheads" he was hanging around with, and the fact that his period to "test the waters" was in the spotlight. Fallon said that part of becoming a man was picking yourself up after being knocked down — and Bieber has, apparently, with his new hit single. If this were a less sympathetic interview, Fallon could have added that adults also take responsibility for the times they acted like idiots (and remember when their albums are coming out). You can watch the friendly discussion of Bieber's maturity below. Peter Weber

China Rising
12:20 a.m. ET
Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping used a speech during a parade showcasing China's military strength to announce that he is cutting 300,000 personnel from China's massive army. He described the reduction of the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army as a gesture of peace, saying that China will always "walk down the path of peaceful development." Analysts suggest the move is unlikely to reduce regional tensions over China's expanding military presence, and probably has more to do with Xi's efforts to modernize the armed forces.

Xi made his announcement during a parade to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of World War II. The parade featured more than 12,000 soldiers, including some from Russia and elsewhere, tanks, advanced fighter jets and bombers, and a range of powerful missiles, some being shown off in public for the first time. Along with the show of force, China was also spotted for the first time deploying warships off the coast of Alaska, in international waters. Peter Weber

late-night wars
September 2, 2015

The free publicity apparently wasn't enough for Jeb Bush, so he turned his spot on Stephen Colbert's inaugural Late Show into a fundraiser for his already well-funded presidential campaign: If you send in $3, you'll be entered into a raffle for a ticket to the show and dinner with Woody Johnson, the billionaire owner of the New York Jets. "I think the contest is a great idea," Colbert said, in what he suggests will probably be his last pre-show online video, "but here's the thing: No one from Jeb's campaign asked me if this was okay with me, to raise money off my first show."

So Colbert responded with some jokes about the Bush political dynasty, Bush's political base — "if you can't afford $3, you're probably not voting for Jeb Bush" — and the wisdom of tying your campaign to the "winning tradition of the New York Jets." And then he announced his own contest, the winner of which gets to submit one (non-vulgar) question that Colbert will ask Bush. Shot, fired:

...and returned. Probably glad to be sparring with somebody other than Donald Trump, Bush tweeted this video to Colbert, managing to both rib Colbert and dampen his own fundraising efforts by lowering the contest fee to $1:

Well, Amy Schumer is funny. Maybe Colbert has found his stand-in host. Peter Weber

ladies and gentlemen we are delayed because of...
September 2, 2015

Congratulations, Queens! In addition to being the most diverse urban area in the U.S., boasting a massive beer garden, and hosting the city's best Chinatown, the borough of Queens is also home to seven of the 10 worst subway stations in New York City, according to a report by the Citizens Budget Commission.

The report evaluated the stations by the number of structural components in disrepair, weighted that against the total number of structural components at the station, then gave each station a percentage. Of the 33 stations in worst shape, roughly half are located in Queens, Capital New York reports. Here's the map:


(Citizens Budget Commission)

Lest non-Queens residents begin to gloat, the Metropolitan Transit Authority is ruining basically every New Yorker's commute. As New York notes, it will be 2067 before all 467 MTA subway stations are in a “state of good repair." Perhaps in the intervening 52 years, we can all learn to actually leave enough time for subway delays in our morning commutes. Kimberly Alters

This just in
September 2, 2015
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The six Baltimore police officers who were charged with the death of Freddie Gray, 25, while in their custody have had their defense motions rejected by a Baltimore judge on Wednesday. The officers' trial will begin next month; a pretrial hearing on September 10 will decide whether the case should be removed from Baltimore due to its publicity, Reuters reports.

Earlier Wednesday, protesters gathered outside the Circuit Courthouse to wait for the judge's decision. Gray's death in police custody — which was ruled a homicide — has become one of several centerpieces in the national discussion over police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. Jeva Lange

Football is back!
September 2, 2015
Elsa/Getty Images

There are plenty of things that set Andrew Luck, 25, apart from other football players. As the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Luck is posed to become the next football superstar in the vein of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — he's destroyed passing records, bringing his team closer and closer to the Super Bowl each year. And, maybe most noteworthy of all, Luck is actually immensely likable and down-to-earth, both on the field and off.

He's always been this way, too: Luck was a star player at Stanford, and graduated as his high school's co-valedictorian. In a profile by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, he humbly added that he had never thought, "I'm good enough to play in the NFL," taking his early successes and goals step by step. Now known for being bookish and weirdly friendly on the field ("Luck routinely compliments the NFL players who sack him or knock him down, saying things like 'Hey, nice hit!' as they try to beat his head in," Taibbi notes), Luck can't really imagine a time when the tides might turn against him:

Americans love to turn on their celebrities. In sports especially, we root for them on the way up, then pelt them on the way down. Once-adored superstars like LeBron and Brady became villains after too many years in contention. I ask Luck about that phenomenon given that it might be in his future. His answer is hilarious.

"I bet Tom Brady doesn't give a shit about what people think about him," he says. "Or Peyton. You play quarterback long enough, you hear some things. You have to have skin like an armadillo." [Rolling Stone]

Luck won't settle for simply being thick-skinned, like the rest of us mortals. Jeva Lange

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