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April 15, 2014

Last Friday, the internet was gripped by a photo of a woman walking a man on a leash in London. Speculation about the incident's purpose swirled as the hashtag #manonleash exploded on Twitter. Some thought it was an erotic experiment, while others said it might be an elaborate PR prank.

Turns out, it was for a theatrical project.

The woman in the picture, Eden Avital Alexander, is an actress and told the London Evening-Standard that the intent of the stunt was to capture onlookers' reactions to a man being walked on a leash in public. To record the scene, a hidden camera was placed in a tissue box by a woman walking beside the pair.

"It was not a BDSM or a PR stunt; the project seemed at the start like a funny thing to be a part of and was all about the audience, which for me I think is the most important part of acting," she said. Read the rest of the interview at the London Evening-Standard. -- Jordan Valinsky

4:13 p.m. ET
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Republicans' timing couldn't be worse when it comes to repealing ObamaCare, at least according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Tuesday. The survey found that right now, just as Republicans have passed the first hurdle toward repeal, Obama's signature health care plan is more popular than ever among Americans.

Forty-five percent of Americans now say the Affordable Care Act is "a good idea," which NBC News noted is "the highest percentage here since the NBC/WSJ poll began asking the question in April 2009." Conversely, 41 percent of Americans say the health care law is "a bad idea."

Even though that's still a large swath of Americans doubting the merits of the ACA, Americans aren't particularly optimistic that Republicans will be able to solve the problem either. Just 26 percent of Americans said they have a "great deal" or "quite a bit of confidence" in congressional Republicans finding a suitable replacement. Fifty percent said they had "very little" or no confidence that the GOP would come up with a viable replacement plan.

The poll was taken from Jan. 12-15 among 1,000 adults. Its overall margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Becca Stanek

3:38 p.m. ET

Despite the fact that Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of the interior is expected to glide through the confirmation process in the Senate relatively unscathed, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did not hold back on grilling Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) on Tuesday.

To begin, Sanders pressed Zinke on the issue of climate change; Zinke has historically wobbled on the topic, having both signed onto a letter asking President Obama for climate change legislation but also having claimed climate change is manmade. To Sanders, he stated that "the climate is changing" and "man is an influence," and distanced himself from Trump by adding firmly, "I don't believe it's a hoax."

But the extent to which man is affecting climate change is up for debate, Zinke added, pleading a lack of expertise because "I'm not a climate scientist," and claiming the issue is still up for debate in the scientific community.

Sanders wasn't having it. While he admitted there might be debate in the Senate committee room, Sanders said, "there's not a debate among scientists." Jeva Lange

3:07 p.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural poem has been published, and boy is it something. Titled "Pibroch of the Domhnall," the piece is inspired by Trump's Scottish ancestry ("Domhnall," the Scottish form of the name Donald, is pronounced like "TONE-all," the author notes) and was written by Joseph Charles MacKenzie, who is apparently an actual poet.

You would be forgiven to mistake him for a satirist, though. Here is an actual stanza from the poem:

But for all his great wisdom, the braw gallant man
Is matched by his children, the handsome Trump clan,
And the flower of Europe, Melania the fair,
Adds a luster and grace with her long flowing hair.
May they flourish and prosper to form a great crowd
Around the good Domhnall, the best of MacLeod! [Classical Poets]

MacKenzie adds in his notes that "the refrains at the end of each stanza are to be recited by the Inaugural crowd," like some sort of medieval "long live the king!" "MacLeod" is a reference to Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod. And while a Scottish lyric poem might seem strange to inaugurate an American president, Trump declared in 2008, after visiting the cottage where his mother grew up, that "I feel Scottish."

The poem also blasts President Obama as a "tyrant" that Trump has come down from his "tower" to defeat:

Come out for the Domhnall, ye brave men and proud,
The scion of Torquil and best of MacLeod!
With purpose and strength he came down from his tower
To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power.
Now the cry has gone up with a cheer from the crowd:
"Come out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!" [Classical Poets]

To read the poem, or print the text for a dramatic reading, go here. Jeva Lange

1:09 p.m. ET

As America ushers in a new president this week, it is also ushering in a new era … of children's literature:

Let's take a closer look at that page for Donald Trump in U.S. Presidents: The Oval Office All-Stars:

When I was nominated, the Republican establishment went nuts. They thought the megawatt Trump name — though it glistens from casinos, luxury towers, and golf courses worldwide — would spell lights out on an election ballot. Bad call, wimps! I'm the Deal Maker Supreme, and my election was my big, big deal with history and the American people. I said what I thought and they liked it. The Donald became The President.

Now I'm in the Oval Office, working my comeback magic on the American economy. In the 1990s, my net worth took a major hit. For a while, I had to sell assets (my yacht!), live on a budget, and negotiate with creditors. But thanks to my signature swagger, I got mega rich again in just a few years! American debt, prepare to go bye bye! [U.S. Presidents: The Oval Office All-Stars]

The page for the 45th president additionally boasts fun facts such as Trump being "the only president to appear on WrestleMania" and "the only president to have been married three times."

Have fun explaining that to your fourth grader. Jeva Lange

12:51 p.m. ET

The Obamas to Washington: Bye!

The soon-to-be former first family plans to jet to Palm Springs, California, after vacating the White House following Trump's inauguration Friday. The Obamas picked Palm Springs because they wanted to go somewhere warmer than D.C., White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday at his final press briefing.

It was a nice thought, anyway. Jeva Lange

12:30 p.m. ET

Before he said he does not see President-elect Donald Trump as a "legitimate president," Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) should've taken a "look at history" and all Republican presidents have done for civil rights — at least, that's the opinion of Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). "It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple 'thank you' would suffice," LePage said during an interview Tuesday on WVOM Maine radio's George Hale and Ric Tyler Show, while discussing Lewis' comment that he believes Russian interference undermined the legitimacy of Trump's presidency.

The Portland Press Herald pointed out that LePage's claims about 19th-century Republican presidents' contributions to civil rights simply aren't accurate: While Grant did oversee the Republican Party's efforts to end slavery and protect African Americans' rights, Hayes "oversaw the end of the Reconstruction era, giving rise to the enactment of Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation," the Portland Press Herald reported.

Lewis spokeswoman Brenda Jones said LePage's "mean-spirited comments" were not something Lewis "feels the need to defend himself against." "The facts of history refute that statement," Jones said. A spokesman for LePage did not immediately respond to the Portland Press Herald's request for clarification.

Catch LePage's remarks below. Becca Stanek

12:25 p.m. ET

Actress Betty White turns 95 on Tuesday, which is pretty old. Here's an idea of what that looks like as charted by Atlantic hurricanes:

But despite being just five years away from the big one-zero-zero, White is still hipper than many (let's face it — most) young people. Unlike Paul Ryan (a measly 46), for example, she knows how to properly dab:

From Golden Girls to Saturday Night Live to the Super Bowl, celebrate White's birthday with seven of her best on-screen moments below. Jeva Lange

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