May 14, 2014
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The long, largely futile international effort to mediate Syria's four-year-long civil war took a few big hits on Tuesday. Most concretely, special United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi quit as official mediator between the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels trying to oust him. "It's very sad that I leave this position and leave Syria behind in such a bad state," he told reporters. "Apologies once more."

France and Human Rights Watch also cast doubt on one of the few apparent successes of the international mediation efforts: The bilateral pledge to stop using chemical weapons in the fight. Human Rights Watch said in a report released Tuesday that it has strong evidence Assad's forces dropped chlorine bombs from helicopters onto at least three northern Syrian towns in April, violating its pledge. And French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there are "indications" that the Assad regime had conducted 14 chemical weapons attacks since signing the treaty.

Fabius also said he wished the U.S. had stuck Syria in August 2013, declaring, "we feel that it would have changed many things." France was willing to take part in a U.S.-led military strike, he added, but didn't want to go it alone. Peter Weber

2:35 a.m. ET

Michael Moore predicted in August that Donald Trump would be elected president by winning Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Seth Meyers reminded him on Wednesday's Late Night. "I never wanted to be more wrong," Moore said. "Ever since then people have been asking me for help with their lotto numbers." Meyers asked if Moore thought the Democrats had learned the right lessons from Hillary Clinton's defeat, and Moore said "the Democrats' biggest problem — and this includes people who voted for Hillary — they don't act like they won." Clinton's huge victory in the Electoral College strips Trump of any mandate, he said, and he volunteered to lead the charge to kill the Electoral College.

Moore said he would want to abolish America's "arcane" election system even if Trump had won the popular vote and lost the White House, but he added that the founding fathers did include some escape hatches in the Electoral College system. One of Alexander Hamilton's "genius ideas" was that "maybe there should be a stopgap, just in case a madman or somebody who thought he was going to be king gets elected, there's that one final door he's got to go through," Moore said. "So right now, if you don't mind — I made that prediction back in the summer — so I'd like to make another one tonight."

He didn't exactly predict that Trump won't ever take office, but he came close. Trump "is not president of the United States yet," Moore noted. "He's not president until noon on Jan. 20 of 2017," or more than six weeks from now. "Would you not agree, regardless what side of the political fence you're on, this has been the craziest election year?" he asked. "Nothing anyone has predicted has happened — the opposite has happened — so is it possible, just possible, that in these next six weeks, something else might happen, something crazy, something we're not expecting?" Watch below. Peter Weber

1:54 a.m. ET
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On Thursday, the House approved a bill to finance the federal government until April 28, by a 329-96 vote, but Senate Democrats may force a brief government shutdown over a provision to fund the health care of retired coal miners. The current bill includes a four-month extension of the miners' health benefits, set to lapse on Jan. 1 for at least 12,500 union miners and their families, but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) says he will "do everything I can to stop" the spending bill if it doesn't have a one-year extension, so lawmakers can work out a permanent fix for the miners' badly underfunded pension fund. "Nobody wants to close this great institution, this government down," he said. "But you've got to stand for something or sure to God you'll stand for nothing."

Manchin has support from other Democrats and even some Republicans, notably Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). Republican leaders say the Democrats are fighting a losing battle on miners' health care and lost all leverage after the House passed the spending bill and left town for the Christmas holiday. "The House just took its last votes of the year," said AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). "They're not going to get what they want," Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said of Manchin and his fellow Democrats. "They ought to actually be grateful for what they got." Manchin and several other of the coal-state Democrats are up for re-election in 2018.

Democrats pointed out that President-elect Donald Trump pledged to support coal miners during the campaign, and also a "Buy American" provision that was not included in a separate water infrastructure bill. A meeting on Thursday afternoon strengthened Democratic resolve to block the measure, though incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he "can't predict the exact path" they'll use to win the fight. Current spending runs out at midnight Friday, and Democrats can use procedural measures to block the bill until at least Sunday night.

Republican leaders in Congress had planned to fund the federal government for fiscal 2017 though separate spending bills hammered out in committee, but after Trump won they decided on an omnibus package so they could pass more favorable spending legislation without the threat of President Obama's veto. Peter Weber

December 8, 2016
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When The New Celebrity Apprentice, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, debuts early next year, President-elect Donald Trump's name will appear in the credits as executive producer, right after series creator Mark Burnett. Trump will get more than just credit: He will also receive a fee for every episode that's "likely to be in the low five-figures, at minimum," Variety reports, noting that MGM, not NBC, will be paying Trump — MGM, Burnett's company, produces the reality TV show, and NBC licenses and broadcasts it.

"Mr. Trump has a big stake in the show and conceived of it with Mark Burnett," Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Thursday, confirming that she was referring to a financial stake but giving no details about the arrangement. MGM and NBC declined comment when contacted by several news organizations. NBC had said it was "ending its business relationship" with Trump in July 2015, after he launched his presidential campaign by calling many Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. In May 2016, Trump signaled that he was still invested in the show. "You know I have a big chunk of that show, going forever," he said. "Mark and I did it together. We were 50-50 partners."

President Obama received royalties for books he wrote before taking office, but "the fact that a sitting president will be on the payroll of a current TV show is another example of the thicket of potential conflicts of interest raised by Trump's segue from private businessman and TV star to commander-in-chief," Variety says. Ethics experts, already dismayed that Trump appears unwilling to divest himself of his business, threw up their hands at the reality TV deal. "We need him to be president — full time — and not to have other contractual commitments elsewhere," Richard Painter, ethics counsel to former president George W. Bush, told The Washington Post. "He's testing the limits on everything."

Still, reality TV is a big part of Trump's story — The Apprentice saved his business career in many ways — and the skills he mastered in the medium have served him well in politics, The Washington Post notes: "Even his transition has been marked by the kind of drama that, while abnormal for the practice of building a government, is familiar to fans of the show. Just as Apprentice contestants had to battle for Trump's approval, potential Cabinet picks are publicly competing with each other and paraded before cameras at Trump Tower." Peter Weber

December 8, 2016
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Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) Senate farewell Thursday was filled with moments both heartfelt and humorous, as the Senate minority leader prepares to retire after 30 years in Congress.

Hillary Clinton made her first appearance on Capitol Hill since losing the presidential election to deliver a farewell — and a joke about the recent unexpected turn of events. "This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be giving after the election," Clinton said, after receiving a standing ovation. "But after a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods, I though it would be a good idea to come out." Clinton proceeded to praise Reid's work passing "landmark legislation that made life better for American families, specifically mentioning his role in making the Affordable Care Act law.

Vice President Joe Biden started his tribute by saying, "My name is Joe Biden and I work for Harry Reid." He proceeded to reminisce on Reid's habit of ending phone calls abruptly, saying, "Every time I hear a dial tone, I think of Harry." But Biden — who worked alongside Reid in the Senate for 25 years — put the jokes aside to honor his friend and colleague. "I love you, pal," Biden said. "I know that embarrasses you, but I do."

Reid's incoming replacement as Senate minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), also delivered a tribute, as did Reid's Republican counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and his Democratic counterpart in the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Reid's portrait will be unveiled and hung on Capitol Hill later Thursday. Becca Stanek

December 8, 2016
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Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be White House chief of staff, once reportedly tried to talk Trump out of seeing his campaign through to Election Day. Citing "a person briefed on the conversation," New York's Gabriel Sherman reported Thursday that Priebus told Trump he should drop out of the race after the Access Hollywood tape of Trump making lewd comments about women was leaked in early October.

Priebus reportedly said that if Trump did not cut his losses then, he would "go down with a worse election loss than Barry Goldwater's." In the 1964 presidential election, the Republican presidential candidate lost to then-Democratic candidate Lyndon B. Johnson, winning just 52 electoral votes while Johnson won 486.

As we all know now, Priebus ended up being dead wrong about Trump's prospects. Trump, unlike Goldwater, won 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton's 232. While Priebus' nomination as chief of staff would indicate both he and Trump have moved past the incident, Sherman reported that not everyone on Trump's team has. Some, Sherman wrote, are "dismayed by Priebus' influence because they question the Washington insider's loyalty to the president-elect."

Read more about the power struggle that has allegedly created over at New York. Becca Stanek

December 8, 2016

Former Ohio senator, astronaut, and aviator John Glenn died Thursday at the age of 95, The Columbus Dispatch reports. Glenn was hospitalized a week ago at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University, although his specific condition was unknown and was not necessarily cancer.

Glenn achieved many "firsts" in his lifetime, including being the first American to orbit Earth, breaking the transcontinental flight speed record, and becoming the oldest person in space.

"John Glenn is, and always will be, Ohio's ultimate hometown hero, and his passing today is an occasion for all of us to grieve," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. "As we bow our heads and share our grief with his beloved wife, Annie, we must also turn to the skies, to salute his remarkable journeys and his long years of service to our state and nation. Though he soared deep into space and to the heights of Capitol Hill, his heart never strayed from his steadfast Ohio roots. Godspeed, John Glenn!" Jeva Lange

December 8, 2016

Only 51 percent of 30-year-old Americans make more money than their parents did at the same age, economists and sociologists from Stanford, Harvard, and the University of California have learned. The results of their study reflect a shocking decline from four decades prior, when 92 percent of American 30-year-olds in 1970 earned more than their parents did at a similar age.

"My parents thought that one thing about America is that their kids could do better than they were able to do," Raj Chetty, an economist on the research team who emigrated from India at age 9, told The Wall Street Journal. "That was important in my parents' decision to come here."

It isn't immediately clear why Americans aren't earning as much, but economic growth and the widening income gap are likely causes. Regardless, reversing the trend is a daunting task: "If income distribution remains as tilted toward the wealthy as it is now, [the researchers] calculate, it would take sustained growth of more than 6 percent a year, adjusted for inflation, to return to an era where nearly all children outearned their parents," The Wall Street Journal notes. "Since World War II, the U.S. hasn't experienced anything near that level of growth for a lengthy period of time." Jeva Lange

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