Come for the sand, stay for the... sand.
Artists gathered this week at the Tottori Dune's "Sand Museum" in Japan for the 7th annual sand sculpture exhibition. This year, the exhibition's theme is "Russia" in honor of the Sochi Olympics. In case you weren't aware of how difficult it is to be a sand sculptor, the Sand Museum's website reminds us just how transient the medium is: "Sand sculptures eventually collapse as the material is sand."
Luckily, the sculptures were captured on camera before falling apart, so check out some very impressive works of art below. --Sarah Eberspacher
Facebook now requires political advertisers to prove they're Americans by submitting their Social Security numbers
Facebook announced a crackdown on political advertising in early April, a move intended to assuage fears about political misinformation and election meddling. Among the changes, which will be fully implemented Tuesday, Facebook will display who pays for political ads. The social network will also institute a complex process to verify purchasers of U.S. political advertising are Americans (or permanent residents) living in America.
CNN's Donie O'Sullivan decided to experience that process for himself, sharing the results on Twitter. The steps include: giving Facebook your address so the company can physically mail you a verification code, uploading images of your driver's license or passport, and submitting your Social Security number.
Under new Facebook rules, if you want to buy a political or an issue ad (more on what's an issue later) in the US on Facebook you have to prove you are a permanent resident or a citizen here. I went through the process to see how it works. pic.twitter.com/jcBc9CJK0f
— Donie O'Sullivan (@donie) May 20, 2018
Basically, buying a political Facebook ad now requires the same level of personal information as opening a bank account.
And the scope of application for this process is broad. Facebook says it applies to "national issues of public importance" including civil rights, government reform, the exceedingly vague "values," and much more. A number of prominent media organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, have sent a letter to Facebook complaining that news content will be inappropriately lumped in with advocacy. Bonnie Kristian
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with a string of new demands in a Monday speech, following President Trump's recent decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal.
To deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Pompeo said, the U.S. will impose "the strongest sanctions in history" and create military pressure. "We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them," said Pompeo. Bloomberg reports that the secretary of state listed 12 "basic requirements" that the U.S. would demand before lessening up the "sting of sanctions." Other demands included releasing Americans held captive in Iran, ceasing support for terrorist groups in the Middle East, and withdrawing military forces from Syria.
The U.S. would eventually be willing to lift Iranian sanctions in exchange for a major change in behavior, America's top diplomat added. If Tehran verifiably ended its nuclear weapons program and stopped its "destabilizing activities in the region," said Pompeo, the U.S. would consider offering "relief." Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza
It has been two years since Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) shook up the Democratic Party with his grassroots movement, but there is growing concern that his "revolution" no longer has the legs to impart real political change, Politico reports in a dissection of Our Revolution.
While the organization does not have formal ties to Sanders, the senator's supporters and operatives formed Our Revolution after he lost the primary to Hillary Clinton as a way to keep up the momentum of the progressive movement. Yet with a leadership crisis — some say the president, Nina Turner, is using the group as a vehicle to get her own exposure ahead of a 2020 presidential run — and a shaky record of transparency and successful endorsements, some believe that Our Revolution is so weak that it could even hurt Sanders by mere association.
Sanders did personally have a significant win recently in Pennsylvania, where he endorsed Braddock Mayor John Fetterman in the lieutenant governor's race. Our Revolution, however, did not back Fetterman, nor did it back the progressive Nebraska candidate Kara Eastman, who won her race against centrist Rep. Brad Ashford (D).
Sanders' 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, defended Our Revolution, telling Politico that the group "is doing a phenomenal job around the country, helping energize the grassroots, and helping to democratize the Democratic Party." Read more of the criticism of the group, and how it could potentially drag Sanders down, at Politico. Jeva Lange
Don't tell President Trump he got rolled by China. On Fox News Sunday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump has put his $150 billion in proposed tariffs "on hold" while the U.S. and China implement a new "framework" in which China lowers tariffs on unspecified U.S. goods, buys more U.S. energy and food, and increase cooperation in safeguarding U.S. technology. Trump began his morning tweets with a defense of the preliminary deal:
China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural Products - would be one of the best things to happen to our farmers in many years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2018
"On China, barriers and tariffs to come down for first time," he added. Analysts, and many of his own allies, did not agree with Trump's rosy assessment. "Trump administration gets rolled by the Chinese," tweeted Wall Street Journal trade reporter Bob Davis. Fox Business host Lou Dobbs tweeted: "Chinese say 'No Deal' — U.S. must export like a superpower not an agrarian developing nation half our size!" Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) summed up the objections in one tweet:
#China is winning the negotiations. Their concessions are things they planned to do anyways. In exchange they get no tariffs, can keep stealing intellectual property & can keep blocking our companies while they invest in the U.S. without limits. #Losing https://t.co/nHu1wnrm3b
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 21, 2018
China got Trump's team to drop the threatened tariffs and a specific $200 billion commitment for increased imports, and in return it pledged to buy more U.S. energy and food that it was almost certainly going to import anyway to feed its growing middle class. So "China appears to have the upper hand, but this is just the beginning," says Heather Long at The Washington Post. "There's hope on both sides of the aisle (and in many parts of America) that Trump will hold out for more." Peter Weber
Singer Kelly Clarkson, a Texas native, called for change in an impassioned speech during the Billboard Music Awards on Saturday.
Clarkson was responding to Friday's Santa Fe High School shooting, which left 10 dead in her home state. As host of the BBMAs, Clarkson said she was asked to lead a moment of silence for the victims, but instead called for a "moment of action" to prevent future violence.
Fighting back tears, Clarkson recalled the tragedy in Texas. "I'm so sick of moments of silence," she said. "It's not working. Why don't we do a moment of action? Why don't we do a moment of change?"
The crowd cheered while Clarkson declared that the current status quo is "failing our children," forcing parents and communities to live in fear. Watch the full tribute below, via the Billboard Music Awards. Summer Meza
Our hearts go out to all the victims in the Santa Fe community and their families. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/7ejLAd8nKk
— Billboard Music Awards (@BBMAs) May 21, 2018
Fox News host Pete Hegseth gave a big ol' shrug at the mention of more than 50 Palestinians who were killed by Israeli gunfire on the Gaza Strip earlier this month while protesting the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Speaking with Ed Henry and Abby Huntsman over the weekend, Hegseth dismissed his co-hosts' claims that there "could be some innocent Palestinians, including children, who were killed" by saying they were shot "because Hamas told them to go to the front of the line."
"Okay, but there are some innocent people who died," insisted Henry. "Caught in the crossfire, children, whatever it is, let's just point that out."
"Ehhh!" Hegseth said with an exaggerated shrug.
Even Huntsman, who attempted to moderate the two sides, jumped in to contribute that "a human being is a human being." Watch the moment below. Jeva Lange
Deadpool 2 dethroned Avengers: Infinity War as leader of the box office, taking in $125 million in the U.S. and Canada over its opening weekend. The debut of the sequel featuring Ryan Reynolds' wisecracking superhero was the second-highest opening ever for an R-rated movie. Deadpool 2's haul fell just short of a projected $130 million to $150 million debut. It also fell shy of the original Deadpool's opening weekend haul of $132.4 million.
Avengers: Infinity War had led the box office for the three previous weekends. It dropped to second place, adding $28.7 million to its domestic total, which now stands at $595 million. Worldwide it has brought in $1.8 billion. Harold Maass