March 25, 2014

Forget about The Godfather, James Bond, or Star Wars. According to Mark Wahlberg, one movie series is more iconic than any of them: Michael Bay's Transformers.

In an appearance at CinemaCon, Wahlberg explained why he agreed to a starring role in this summer's Transformers: Age of Extinction. He conceded that he was initially afraid that he wouldn't be able to top the noted thespians of the previous Transformers films, including Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, and the Victoria's Secret model they hired to replace Megan Fox after she compared Michael Bay to Hitler.

In the end, Wahlberg said he "had to jump at the opportunity" because Transformers is "probably the most iconic franchise in movie history." But if you're worried that Age of Extinction could never equal the "noisy," "bloated" standard set by the original Transformers trilogy, never fear: Wahlberg promises that Age of Extinction is "bigger and better than the other three combined." Don't set the bar too high, Mark. Scott Meslow

8:58 a.m. ET

Over half the population of the world still does not use the internet, a report by the United Nation's International Telecommunication Union has found. Fifty-three percent of the global population is "offline," with four-fifths of that population living in Asia-Pacific and Africa:

"The reasons for being offline or for limited Internet use are manifold: many do not have access because they live in remote or difficult to reach areas and do not have access to digital or other basic infrastructure such as electricity or transport," the authors found. "Some do not see the benefits of being connected, often because of limited awareness, cultural impediments or limited relevant digital content. Still others are illiterate, and many are too poor to afford even the most basic of Internet packages and devices. Existing inequalities in terms of income and education, particularly prominent among women, and other factors exacerbate the problem."

The ITU aims to have 60 percent of the world "online" by 2020. Read the full report here. Jeva Lange

8:39 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump is now just hours away from being in a position to make America great again. But when pressed on how "greatness" can be "measured and sensed" by The Washington Post, Trump responded with a new vision for America — more military parades.

"Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country," Trump said. "And we're going to show the people as we build up our military, we're going to display our military.

"That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, D.C., for parades. I mean, we're going to be showing our military," he added. [The Washington Post]

Critics reeled at the announcement. "Not reassuring to see an incoming leader [with] authoritarian tendencies talking about military parades in major cities," tweeted Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan.

Trump admitted the parades would not be enough. "Being a cheerleader or a salesman for the country is very important, but you still have to produce the results," he said. Jeva Lange

8:11 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Obama will hold his final news conference on Wednesday, two days before he leaves office, the White House said. Obama is wrapping up his eight-year presidency with his approval rating at 60 percent, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. That is his highest mark since 2009, putting him near the top in the list of outgoing presidents. He's outranked only by Bill Clinton, who had a 66 percent approval rating in January 2001, and Ronald Reagan, who left office in January 1989 with a 64 percent rating. Harold Maass

8:11 a.m. ET
Alabama Attorney General's Office/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump quietly met with Alabama-based Judge William Pryor on Saturday, people familiar with the unannounced meeting told The Associated Press. The move comes just a handful of days before Trump is supposed to announce his Supreme Court nominee.

Trump has already expressed that Pryor, 54, as well as Judge Diane Sykes, 59, are his favorites for the position. Pryor serves on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and was the attorney general in Alabama between 1997 and 2004, following in the footsteps of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Sessions is Trump's choice for attorney general, and has praised Pryor as someone who "personally does not believe in abortion. He does not believe it is right. He believes it is wrong."

Pryor has slammed Roe v. Wade as the "worst abomination in the history of constitutional law," but his addition to the court would need the support of another Trump Supreme Court appointment before abortion rights could be greatly restructured.

If selected, Pryor would fill a vacancy on the court left by Justice Antonin Scalia after his death last year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to give President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, a hearing; Garland's nomination recently expired after 293 days. Jeva Lange

7:41 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for health and human services secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), will face a gauntlet of unfriendly Democrats on Wednesday during his senate confirmation hearing.

It will be the first of two hearings for Price, a six-term Republican who formerly served as the chair on the House Budget committee and once worked as an orthopedic surgeon. Price will face particular scrutiny from Democrats as he has long been an opponent of the Affordable Care Act and has proposed reworking the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Democrats could hit Price over his splits with Trump on privatizing Medicare, the cost of replacing ObamaCare, and Price's stock holdings related to health companies like Aetna and Zimmer Biomet Holdings, CNBC reports. Jeva Lange

7:41 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump flew down to Washington, D.C., to attend his first Inauguration Week event in the nation's capital, a black-tie dinner to honor his longtime friend and inauguration committee chairman, Tom Barrack. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence both addressed the roughly 150 foreign diplomats and ambassadors, wealthy donors, and future members of his staff and Cabinet, with Pence assuring the diplomats that while Trump "will be a president who puts America first," his teams shares "a commitment to engage with all of the world."

Trump agreed, saying, "We have great respect for your countries," then lauded his own choice of Pence as running mate, even though he "had a couple of beauties I could have picked" instead. He went on to say he's proud of his Cabinet picks, asserting, "We have put together a team, I think the likes of which has never been assembled." And because he was speaking to diplomats, he singled out his pick for secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. The confirmation process has been "tougher than he thought," Trump said. "He's led this charmed life. He goes into a country, takes the oil, goes into another country. It's tough dealing with these politicians, right?" The crowd laughed.

Some of Trump's other claims were slightly dubious, like his assertion that "they’ve just announced we're going to have record crowds coming" to his inauguration, including "the Bikers for Trump." "Boy, they had a scene today — I don't know if I'd want to ride one of those, but they do like me," Trump said. "They had a scene today where they had helicopters flying over a highway someplace in this country, and they had thousands of those guys coming into town."

Trump had made a similar claim on Twitter earlier Tuesday, and while the Bikers for Trump group has applied for a permit for 5,000 bikers to gather at a Washington park on Inauguration Day, the permit has not been issued yet, according to the National Parks Service. Also, those images and video of the bikers streaming into town shared on social media appear to be at least several months old and from elsewhere in the country.

7:22 a.m. ET

President-elect Donald Trump has not even been sworn into office yet, but he already has an optimistic campaign slogan for his 2020 re-election. The reveal came mid-interview with The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty:

Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

"Are you ready?" he said. "'Keep America Great,' exclamation point."

"Get me my lawyer!" the president-elect shouted.

Two minutes later, one arrived.

"Will you trademark and register, if you would, if you like it — I think I like it, right? Do this: 'Keep America Great,' with an exclamation point. With and without an exclamation. 'Keep America Great,'" Trump said.

"Got it," the lawyer replied. [The Washington Post]

Perhaps unbeknownst to Trump, "Keep America Great" has already been used by an anti-Trump super PAC as a counter against his 2016 campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." And there is one other thing to consider before a full embrace of keeping America great — drop the exclamation point. You don't want someone to accuse you of being too low-energy for it. Jeva Lange

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