March 24, 2014

Leave it to the power of almighty Lorde to try to bring the world together. When Westboro Baptist Church members angrily picketed the singer's concert Friday in Missouri in response to her recent pro-gay comments, counter-protesters had a compassionate response: signs of condolence for the group's recently deceased pastor Fred Phelps. "Sorry for your loss," read one large poster. "Live your life and be awesome," said another.

"We realized that it wasn't so much about antagonizing them but sending out the countered safe that we are here for people who need that message and need that positivity," sign creator Megan Coleman told KSHB-TV. Her well intended message was lost in translation to some Westboro members, however. "I don't even know what they're saying," said Westboro member Steve Dralin, who is poised to be the church's next leader. Jordan Valinsky

8:19 a.m. ET
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Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party are hosting a big watch party at the MGM Grand casino in Detroit on Election Night, but the Michigan Republican Party has decided to sit this year out. "It is a costly endeavor and we are using all available resources to elect Republicans," Sarah Anderson, communications director for the Michigan GOP, told The Detroit News. These parties are typically events to showcase the party's winners and give campaign volunteers, the media, and political activists and candidates to watch election results trickle in.

In 2012, with Michigan native Mitt Romney on the presidential ticket and a U.S. Senate race, the state GOP hosted a big party in Lansing, notes Chad Livengood at The Detroit News, but this year there's not statewide race and no special connection to either Donald Trump or his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. It's not clear if the Trump campaign will host its own party in Michigan. FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary Clinton a 91.8 percent chance of winning Michigan, a state she narrowly lost to Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary and Donald Trump easily won in his GOP primary race. Peter Weber

7:51 a.m. ET
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Twitter is preparing to cut an estimated 8 percent of its workforce this week, people familiar with the decision told Bloomberg. The reduction of approximately 300 people comes ahead of Twitter's third-quarter earnings report, expected at 7 a.m. ET on Thursday.

The company has faced continued struggles to turn itself around, with a 40 percent fall in its share price in the past year making it tempting for engineers to exit for rivals like Google and Facebook. Twitter has also explored a sale, although Walt Disney Co., Alphabet Inc., and others eventually withdrew from the talks.

Without an obvious suitor, Twitter's going to need to figure out a way to be more forward-looking and hopeful to Wall Street. Starting off with layoffs to make the business more efficient is sometimes where things go.

But it's still going to come down to actually improving the product. Trolls aside, [co-founder and CEO Jack] Dorsey has actually not made any dramatic sweeping changes to the service other than adding more of an algorithmic touch to the feed. And attempts to make it less confusing, like removing contributions to character limits for kinds of media and trying to fix @replies (and "canoes"), still haven't helped make the service more sticky and attract new users. (There's also Moments, but that story still hasn't seemingly played out yet.) [TechCrunch]

Twitter also dropped 8 percent of its employees a year ago, when Dorsey rejoined as CEO. Jeva Lange

7:33 a.m. ET
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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both in Florida on Tuesday making aggressive pushes in the final days of the presidential election cycle. The state is an essential win for Trump, who would face a highly improbable path to the White House if he were to lose it.

But unfortunately for Trump, it could be an uphill battle. "This is in all reality a landslide in our great state," Ryan D. Tyson, the vice president of political operations for the Associated Industries of Florida business group, wrote in a confidential memo obtained by Politico. Tyson noted that Clinton has a 3 to 5 percent edge in polls that are adjusted to reflect Florida's electorate: "Based on [Trump's] consistent failure to improve his standing with non-white voters, voters under 50, and females, it seems fairly obvious to us that Mr. Trump's only hope left in Florida is a low turnout."

Trump has denied reports that he is down in the state; his visit Tuesday comes in the middle of a seven-city tour of the Sunshine State.

The RealClearPolitics average shows Clinton up 3.8 percent in the state between Oct. 10 and Oct. 21. Jeva Lange

7:08 a.m. ET

On Wednesday, Donald Trump is taking a short break from the campaign trail to cut the ribbon and officially open his new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., but the luxury hotel appears to be off to a rocky start, with empty rooms and slashed prices despite its prime location. Residents of Trump Place, a large residential complex on Manhattan's Upper West Side, are in open revolt over Trump's name being emblazoned all over their building, even though most of the complex is now owned and managed by Equity Residential.

The mayor of Vancouver, Canada, has requested a name change for his city's Trump International Hotel, scheduled to open next year. Trump values his brand alone at about $3 billion, but billionaire Richard Branson told CNN on Monday that Trump's "brand has been very badly damaged," and while "he's not going to go hungry," because of "many things he's said, his brand is very, very different today that it was six months ago."

Though it doesn't say so, Trump Hotels appears to agree. Its newest hotels will be called Scion, which Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger called "a name that would be a nod to the Trump family" while "allowing for a clear distinction between our luxury and lifestyle brands." Scion means "descendant of a notable family," Trump Hotels said, not a recently defunct Toyota brand also geared toward millennials.

The residents to Trump Place would probably take it. "It's embarrassing to tell people where you live," Marjorie Jacobs, a Trump Place resident, told The New York Times. "It used to be that we were embarrassed because he was tacky," added Erin Kelly. "Now he's shown himself to be despicable on every level." Equity spokesman Martin McKenna said that his firm has "a contractual obligation on the use of the name," but the doormats, awnings, and doorman uniforms are reportedly being stripped of the word Trump.

Trump press secretary Hope Hicks told The Times that removing Trump's name would be "an inappropriate thing to do," adding, "If the name comes off, the building will lose tremendous value." Travel site Hipmunk reported over the summer that bookings at Trump Hotels dropped 58 percent in the first half of the year, but a Trump spokesperson disputed those numbers, saying Hipmunk's data "is manipulated to appear meaningful, when, in reality, the information is inconsequential and does not provide an accurate representation of our performance." In other words, rigged. Peter Weber

5:22 a.m. ET

President Obama is a fan of the Chicago White Sox, and if you want to see a White Sox fan reluctantly root for the uptown rivals, watch Obama's face before saying he hopes the Chicago Cubs win the World Series on Monday's Jimmy Kimmel Live. "I am rooting for the home town team, even though it is not my team," Obama said, pointing out how happy Cubs fans are after their 108-year drought. "White Sox got their championship a little over 10 years ago, so we're feeling okay." Kimmel noted that Bill Murray "may be the premier Cubs fan of all the Cubs fans," and that he crashed the White House while he was in Washington, D.C., to accept the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

"He came into the Oval Office in a Cubs shirt," Obama said, "and I don't usually allow that to happen." Most people wear a shirt and tie, he said. "It was Bill Murray, so I figure, all right, no tie, but don't rub it in with the Cubs jersey on." "I'm amazed by him, because he pretty much does anything he wants," Kimmel said, and Obama illustrated that with a little story.

Murray agreed to do a small social media bit on enrolling in health care, and he and Obama "thought of a little skit, and we decided we were going to putt on the carpet in the Oval Office" into a glass, Obama said. "And he won repeatedly. I mean, he kept on hit— the glass was rigged." "That's happening a lot lately," Kimmel said. "I was a little frustrated," the famously competitive Obama said, "and what makes matters worse, then he's giving me tips about putting.... But he took money from me, and I paid him $5. So basically, the whole business was a disaster." Kimmel's only response was, "You have money, like, do you have any money with you right now?" And it turns out that was a good question. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:35 a.m. ET

Hillary Clinton is clearly winning this election because she has already declared that after three debates, she no longer has to respond to Donald Trump's attacks, Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "Yes, Hillary says she's not giving any thought to what Donald Trump says, so that makes both of them now." This gave Colbert a crazy idea: "Trump clearly feeds on attention, so this might work. By denying it to him, we can starve him out. So I pledge, I pledge right now I will spend the rest of the monologue not talking about Donald Trump."

That vow lasted for maybe 30 seconds. Then Colbert turned to Trump's big speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, over the weekend, which started out strong enough, with talk of healing a divided nation. "It's true: America is divided between those who think Trump will lose because the election is rigged, and those who think he'll lose because it is not," Colbert said, noting that after about 45 seconds, Trump launched into a diatribe against the women who have accused him of groping and other unwanted sexual advances.

"I can't believe that he would go to Gettysburg and give a speech that was so far from the spirit of the Gettysburg Address," Colbert said. "It is just ridiculous." The ghost of Abraham Lincoln appeared and told Colbert he was wrong, that Trump's speech was actually very similar to the first draft of his famous address. "My advisers made me tone it down, would you like to hear of it?" Lincoln's Ghost said. And you know, the ghost of Abe Lincoln was right: That first draft did have a notable Trumpian quality to it. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:06 a.m. ET

"Do you ever wish you were running against Donald Trump?" Jimmy Kimmel asked President Obama on Monday's Kimmel Live, noting that Vice President Joe Biden said he would rather "take him behind the gym" than debate Trump. Obama laughed the laugh of a man who never has to run for anything again. "You know, I think Hillary is doing just fine," he said. "I am enjoying campaigning on her behalf, and also campaigning for Senate and House candidates, because look, we joke about Donald Trump but I do think that part of the reason you've seen Michelle passionate in this election, part of the reason that we get involved as much as we have, is not just because we think Hillary is going to be a great president, but it's also because there is something qualitatively different about the way Trump has operated in the political sphere."

"Look, I ran against John McCain, I ran against Mitt Romney — obviously I thought that I could do a better job, but they're both honorable men, and if they had won, I wouldn't worry about the general course of this country," Obama said, outlining the ways he thinks Trump is different. "Regardless of what your political preferences are, and your policy preferences, there is a certain responsibility and expectation in terms of how you behave, how you present yourself...."

"I've heard this speech before, believe me," Kimmel cut in, lightening the mood. When Obama went on, he added, "No, I didn't mean from you, I meant by guidance counselors to me." Listen, Obama said, "if you are willing to say anything and do anything, even when it undermines everything that has been built by previous generations, you know, that's a problem."

Earlier, Kimmel asked Obama if he ever actually laughs at Trump, especially while watching the GOP nominee during the debates. "Most of the time," Obama said. Watch below. Peter Weber

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